Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder of posture and movement secondary to a static lesion of the brain.1The insult to the brain may have occurred prenatally, perinatally, or in early childhood. To label a child as having cerebral palsy, the physician must be convinced that the movement disorder is the result of a nonprogressive lesion of the brain. In spite of the static nature of the encephalopathy, symptoms and signs change during infancy and childhood and mimic a progressive CNS disorder. Although by definition, cerebral palsy refers to a motor dysfunction, there are many associated nonmotor disabilities; these often prove to be major handicaps.

INCIDENCE

The incidence of cerebral palsy is estimated to be one to two cases for every 1,000 live births.2 Because persons with the disorder generally have a normal life span, the prevalence rate does not change with age. In the United States, there are approximately 400,000 persons disabled by cerebral palsy.

CAUSATIVE FACTORS

Causative factors may operate from conception to early childhood (see Table 1). Perinatal factors account for the majority of cases of cerebral palsy. Premature infants, especially those who are small for gestational age, appear to be at the highest risk. Full-term infants contribute the largest number of cases, however, because the ratio of full-term to preterm infant births is so high.

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