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Posted on 4th February 2019

What is Cerebral Palsy

What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition which may have been caused by a birth injury. There are several types of cerebral palsy each with their own symptoms depending on the part of the brain that is affected.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most common form of the condition which accounts for around 80% of adults and children worldwide.

The word “spastic” refers to muscle stiffness and this form of cerebral palsy causes symptoms of stiff and painful muscles, exaggerated reflexes and mobility problems.

There are two types of spastic cerebral palsy being hypertonic and hypotonic. Hypertonia is where the condition results in increased muscle tone causing stiffness whereas hypotonia results in decreased muscle tone causing floppiness in limbs.

It is thought that hyper and hypotonic CP is caused by infections in mum during pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, medications and oxygen deprivation.

The severity of spastic cerebral palsy is categorised into three levels.

Spastic hemiplegia is the lowest level of severity and usually affects one side of the body, mainly an arm and in some instances the leg.

Spastic diplegia affects both legs and causes balance problems and difficulty walking. Other common symptoms include speech difficulties and seizures.

Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe type of spastic cerebral palsy and affects all limbs. Some of the sufferers may also have learning difficulties, suffer from epileptic seizures, hearing and behavioural problems as well as other complications. Children with this form have a greater risk of developing spinal problems.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

This rare type of CP is caused when the part of the brain that controls balance is damaged. Symptoms of this CP include unsteady movements, tremors, slow movements, co-ordination and in some cases hearing and vision problems.

The causes of ataxic cerebral palsy include infections in mum, foetal stroke, mum having high blood pressure, oxygen deficiency placental or umbilical cord damage.

The diagnosis of this form of CP is usually made when the child is anywhere between 3 and 18 months of age because delays in development start to show around that age.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Is categorised by the sufferer having uncontrolled involuntary movement. IT occurs when the base of the brain is damaged. This is the area of the brain which submits messages and it is called the basal ganglia. Symptoms of epilepsy, learning difficulty, hearing and behavioural problems may be present.


Basal Ganglia

Causes of cerebral palsy

The causes of CP can vary depending on the type of CP the person has. By way of a tabular view:

Congenital CP Acquired CP
Infections such as Rubella, Chicken Pox, UTIs and Cytomegalovirus Blood flow problems to the brain
Multiple babies Blood clots
Using fertility treatments Sickle cell disease
Placental problems Head injuries during birth
Uterine ruptures Prolonged labour
Incompatible blood Birth asphyxia
Chorioamnionitis Traumatic brain injury
Medical Negligence Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)
Low birth weight Medical Negligence
Hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy  
Cerebral dysgenesis  
Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)  
Epidural haematoma  
Perinatal stroke  

Cerebral palsy negligence

Some instances of cerebral palsy are considered to be caused by a negligent act by healthcare professionals. Some of the more common mistakes made by medical professionals include:

  • Failure to identify the need for an emergency C-Section
  • Failure to perform a C-section in a timely manner
  • Failure to identify and treat umbilical cord problems
  • Failure to identify and treat placental problems
  • Failure to treat infections in mum during pregnancy
  • Failure to correctly use birth assistance tools
  • Oxygen deprivation during birth
  • Failure to monitor oxygen levels
  • Surgical errors

Making a compensation claim, what do I need to know

As already mentioned the severity of cerebral palsy can differ and in medical negligence claims, the severity is one aspect that is taken into consideration when assessing whether a claim can be brought.

The Limitation Act clearly states that the time limit to bring a claim for medical negligence is 3 years from date of assumed knowledge. There are a few exceptions to this rule though, if the claim involves a minor, the Limitation Act allows 3 years from the child’s 18th birthday. If the claim is for someone who cannot conduct their own affairs, the Limitation Act does not apply.

Many sufferers of cerebral palsy cannot manage day to day activities such as managing their own money or going shopping. They may need assistance with daily tasks such as getting dressed or washing.

These examples are just some instances that help a solicitor establish limitation or in fact that the Limitation Act does not apply.

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