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Up to ten thousand American babies are born each year with cerebral palsy. The American Academy of Neurology just issued new guidelines which may offer hope to parents who suspect something is wrong with their newborn.
Learning that your child has cerebral palsy can be devastating.
"She wouldn't crawl at all, and she couldn't sit up at all."
"Jeffrey was arching, so much that he could almost touch his toes to the back of his head."
"When they reached a year, they were barely sitting up."
Cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed before an infant turns two. Newly released guidelines aim for earlier detection and treatment.
Stephen Ashwal, M.D./ Pediatric Neurologist: "Because it imparts to the doctor an understanding of what needs to be done, the importance of tests, what tests should not be done. Helps families from the point of view of risks of having another child with the same kind of problem."
The guidelines recommend children with cerebral palsy be screened for related conditions such as epilepsy and developmental disabilities, as well as sight hearing and speech disorders. When cerebral palsy is diagnosd, the guildlines recommend magnetic resonance imaging to further evaulate the chlid and determine possible causes.
Beverly Wical, M.D./ Pediatric Specialist: "The reason for that is, MRIs are the most sensitive testing. Ninety percent of children with cerebral palsy will have an mri abnormality that will point us to the cause of cerebral palsy."
The guidelines also recommend physicians regularly screen all children for neurological diseases at every well child visit.
Neurologists say an early diagnosis can decrease longterm impact of these conditions.
Stephen Ashwal, M.D./ Pediatric Neurologist: "Many of the kids with c.p. have potential to get better. They don't have a disease that is progressive or degenerative. This is a static condition and as the brain grows, the brain can heal itself. But also with therapies, the child can be substantially helped."
Most children with cerebral palsy will improve as they get older. Training and therapy can certainly help.