Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most Common type of CP

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of CP and generally refers to intense muscle contractions that make certain limbs difficult or impossible to move voluntarily. Large areas of the body may be impacted by this condition and tension from contractions throughout the body may be unpredictable or constant. Depending on the area of the body that is most affected, spastic CP can be classified with even greater specificity: spastic hemiplegia, spastic quadriplegia, and spastic diplegia.

The type of brain injury that your child suffered will partially determine what type of CP that they develop. How long the condition persisted, how it was treated, if the child was born prematurely, and a host of other factors will also impact the type of condition that develops. If the reason for your child's condition has not been explained to you clearly and if you suspect that medical error may have contributed to brain damage that they suffered, reach out to Bradford S. Davis, M.D. at the California law firm of Michels & Lew. If medical errors contributed to your child's challenges, our legal and medical team may be able to pursue compensation and justice for you. We may also provide answers to your questions and more detailed explanations of the following types of spastic cerebral palsy.

Spastic Hemiplegia: One Side of the Body is Primarily Affected

This diagnosis indicates that the challenges are most apparent on one side of the child's body. This condition may be difficult to diagnose until a child is at least three months old. Many of the associated behaviors related to this condition only become clear when a child fails to meet certain milestones after the first few months of life. Perinatal stroke is a common cause of this condition. For an infant who suffers a stroke, the most common type of stroke occurs in the left hemisphere of the brain causing impairment most apparent on the right side of the body.

A child with this particular condition will have impaired gross and fine motor coordination of varying degrees. They will have difficulty moving one of their hands quickly and may not be able hold small items. Weakness in the wrist and forearm may be obvious and range of motion may be restricted in the elbow. Difficulty controlling the wrist and fingers may also be particularly apparent. As the child begins to walk, more signs may become clear as children with spastic hemiplegia have an abnormal gait. Commonly, they will walk on their toes and swing the affected leg over a nearly semicircular arc as they take a step. Additionally, the affected arm usually moves very little as the child walks. The affected foot may also be turned in a equinovarus position. This indicates that the foot is persistently curled inward and is known commonly as "club foot." Hands and legs on the affected side of the body may also have growth impairment leading to increased challenges to mobility. Children with this condition also are likely to suffer from seizures.

A child with hemiplegia and no other major challenges usually learns to walk by the age of 2. Some of these children may need leg braces or canes to walk but they are, quite often, able to accomplish many daily activities independently with slight adaptations.

Spastic Quadriplegia: Both Legs, Arms, and Head are Impacted

For people with spastic quadriplegia, both arms and legs will have abnormal muscle tone and legs are typically more affected than arms. Some symptoms of this syndrome include clonus which results in rapid involuntary contractions and relaxation of the muscles especially in the ankles. There may also be pronounced contraction of hips, thighs and knees and an inability to voluntarily extend legs completely or place heels flatly on the ground. Muscles and ligaments throughout the legs may also develop abnormally due to the tone irregularities.

The upper limbs, head and torso may also be affected to some degree. Upright posture may be impossible to achieve or maintain due to irregularities in muscle tone. Head movement may often trigger involuntary extension of arms and legs resulting in a posture similar to decerebrate rigidity. Swallowing and speaking may also be impacted by the muscle tone irregularities throughout the face neck, and head. Elbows may be permanently semiflexed, wrists may be pronated and fingers may not be subject to voluntary control.

When compared to other types of spastic CP and ataxic CP, children with spastic quadriplegia are more likely to suffer from visual and auditory challenges. They are also more likely to suffer with learning disabilities and are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia in their first years of life. Many children with spastic quadriplegia have significant intellectual challenges in addition to motor function disabilities. While a large percentage of these children learn to walk, many of them require total care and are incapable of accomplishing most daily tasks on their own.

Spastic Diplegia: Both Legs are Equally Affected with Some Upper Body Impairment

Impairments in both legs and some upper extremity impairments are characteristic of this type of CP. Preterm infants are particularly susceptible to this condition. Infants with spastic diplegia have a substantial increase in muscle tone that impacts strength and coordination in their legs. Leg scissoring and involuntary extension of legs may be some of the earliest signs associated with this condition. As a child learns to walk, they may primarily, or only, walk on their toes.

Arms may be affected but usually only to a slight degree when compared to quadriplegia and hemiplegia. Arms may be held in abnormal fixed positions and may be extended or flexed during walking, for instance. When running, affected children may extend their arms, pronate their hands, and clench their hands into fists. Associated athetosis makes this latter posturing more likely. Problems with circulation and vasomotor instability may lead to arms and legs feeling cold and the patient may experience unpredictable sweating episodes. Due to the challenges associated with this type of CP, malformations, deformities and abnormal linear growth in the legs may be particularly apparent.

Children with spastic diplegia usually learn to walk by the age of 3 but their gait is often abnormal. Many require the use of crutches or other supportive devices. Children with this condition often experience difficulties with extraocular movement abnormalities making their eyes move involuntarily or remain in a fixed abnormal position.

Contact our Team of Lawyers and Medical Investigators for more Details

The above details about spastic cerebral palsy offer only a brief overview and you may have many unanswered questions. We have answers. We can offer peace-of-mind that comes from discussing your situation with highly-qualified doctors, medical investigators, and attorneys who have decades of experience with litigation involving cerebral palsy. If your child has this condition, we cannot guarantee that it was caused by medical malpractice or that you will be entitled to compensation. However, we will offer you a free consultation to determine if legal action may be appropriate. If we represent you, we are only paid if we are successful.