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Cerebral Palsy

What's Going On with MeWhat Happens Next?

A developmental delay in a child may actually be the first “red flag,” or sign, of cerebral palsy to a parent or physician. Doctors can then test for CP in a number of ways. These include:

Testing for reflexes

Doctors look at several reflexes when testing for cerebral palsy, including one called the Moro reflex—a motion that looks like a hug—which babies make when they are held on their backs and tilted upward. Babies usually lose this reflex after six months, but babies with CP may continue to have it for a long time.

Looking for hand preference

During the first twelve months of life, babies do not usually show a tendency to use either the right or left hand more often. But infants with spastic hemiplegia, for example, may develop a preference much earlier because the hand on the unaffected side of the body is stronger and more useful.

Ruling out other disorders

Since cerebral palsy is not progressive—meaning the condition does not get worse over time—doctors must explore whether movement problems might be caused by something else. So if a child is continuously losing motor skills, the problem is most likely something other than CP.

Ordering specialized tests

Doctors can order specialized tests both to diagnose cerebral palsy and to learn more about the possible cause. These tests include computerized tomography (CT), which creates a picture of the inside of the brain using X rays and a computer; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which creates an image of the brain using magnetic fields and radio waves; and ultrasonography, which creates a picture of the brain using sound waves.

Looking for other conditions that are linked to cerebral palsy

Doctors also diagnose cerebral palsy by looking for other associated conditions, such as seizure disorders, mental impairment, and vision or hearing problems.

  • Seizure disorders are tested for by means of an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which records the brain's electrical currents and activity.
  • A mental impairment is often checked for by means of intelligence tests.
  • If problems with vision are suspected, a doctor may refer the person to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). If a hearing impairment is suspected, a doctor may refer the person to an otologist (ear doctor).

Identifying conditions that are linked to cerebral palsy is important in helping a doctor make an accurate diagnosis of CP. And once these linked conditions have been identified, many of them can then be appropriately handled with specific treatments.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaCerebral PalsyCerebral Palsy - What's Going On with Me - The Early Signs, What Happens Next?, Associated Medical Disorders