Classifications of Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Although CP is still partly an unknown medical condition, tests can be done which will determine which type of CP your child has. CP is classified according to which part of the brain and body are affected, and how severely.

•  The most common type is Spastic CP , where the muscles move in a jerky fashion that makes it hard to walk. There are three levels of severity:

•  Spastic Diplegia – because the hip and leg muscles are tight, the knees cross, which makes it hard to walk (called scissoring )

•  Spastic Hemiplegia – where only one side of the body is tight, and might not develop properly; the arm and hand may be more affected than the leg, but leg braces might still be needed

•  Spastic Quadriplegia – where the whole body is affected, and often accompanying this type are mental retardation, seizures, and particularly great difficulty with walking and talking

•  The second most common type is Athetoid Dyskinetic CP . This type does not affect the intelligence, but does affect the entire body, causing weak muscle tone. Muscle tone is the ability of muscles to resist pressure, such as the force of gravity, or a strong wind. A child with this type of CP has difficulty with sitting, walking, and talking, and perhaps with control of the facial muscles.

•  Ataxic CP is the least common type. It gives difficulty with more fine motor skills, such as for tying shoelaces or picking up a small object. Sometimes the hand and arm will start shaking after the child reaches for an object and shake more as the hand gets closer to the object, and this is known as intention tremors .

•  Hypotonic CP is usually noticed earlier in life than other types. The baby will be unable to hold his or her head up and motor skills do not develop on schedule. It's thought that this type is caused by prenatal brain damage – perhaps a stroke.

Babies can suffer a stroke, as surprising as that may seem at first, either before birth or soon after birth. It could be from a blood clot in the placenta; high blood pressure in the mother which wasn't treated, or a pelvic infection; umbilical cord problems; and quite a list of other potential causes. Some of these strokes could have been avoided if preventive measures or treatments had been applied sooner.

Mixed CP is a name given to any case of CP which doesn't fit well into the above four types, and this occurs quite often.

•  Congenital CP refers to a malformation in the brain which is already there before birth. It is not necessarily there because of any neglect by the mother, accidents, or mistakes made during pregnancy. The causes of the malformation in any given case are usually unknown.

The best that medical professionals can do to explain why some babies are born with such brain malformations and cerebral palsy is to connect it statistically with certain other factors, such as:

•  A low birth weight

•  Prematurity

•  Trauma or infection during pregnancy

•  Certain chemicals through the mother's bloodstream, particularly alcohol

•  Bleeding in the infant's brain

That isn't an exhaustive list. Research continues and it may be a long while before significantly more can be known about the causes of CP.

If your baby has been diagnosed with CP of any type, you may be wondering whether it could have been prevented. Modern medicine is so vast, sophisticated and complex, that a lay person scarcely knows where to begin if information needs to be tracked down about a specific event such as a birth. If you'd like some help from an experienced birth injury lawyer, you could schedule a free initial consultation and get some answers and pointers. Here's a website where you can find a birth injury attorney in your area .

Keep in mind that medical malpractice cases are done on a contingency basis, meaning that you will not be charged any fees or costs up front. They will come out of whatever award or settlement amount you obtain. While money doesn't necessarily help with the emotional pain of discovering that your beautiful baby has cerebral palsy, it can certainly help with medical costs and living assistance later on.