Cerebral palsy

Early detection, correct treatment

Cerebral palsy (CP) is caused by early-childhood brain damage and leads to activity restrictions. These can be very mild and may, for example, only lead to a slight abnormality when walking or using the hands. However, the spectrum also includes children with severe motor disorders, impairments concerning communication, mental development, and swallowing, and thus feeding. Epilepsy often also occurs. Changes to muscles, tendons, bones and joints are frequent consequences of the neurological disorder.

Our specialists at Schoen Clinic specialise in diagnosing this complex disease and offer the best possible therapy for all age groups and degrees of severity.

Causes & symptoms

Causes: How does cerebral palsy develop?

The term cerebral palsy describes a group of diseases. Their cause is damage to the brain at an early, still immature point in time. This may be as early as during pregnancy, around the time of birth or in the neonatal period. Children who are born prematurely and who have problems resulting from this premature birth, such as oxygen deficiency, have a particularly high risk of developing cerebral palsy. 

Cerebral palsy: Symptoms indicating early-childhood brain damage

Due to the immaturity of the nervous system, there are often no clear signs of cerebral palsy in infants. In these children, it only becomes apparent in the first few months of life that they move one side of the body less strongly than the other, for example, or that they do not reach the motor development milestones corresponding to their age. In the further course of the illness, neurological symptoms appear, which make the diagnosis unequivocal: Reduced muscle strength, too low or too high basic tension in the muscles (muscle tone), difficulties in sitting, standing or walking, and restricted use of the hands and arms are the most common motor signs. Other abnormalities such as impaired language development or mental development that is not age-appropriate may also occur depending on the kind of cerebral palsy.Joint deformities may also be present early on and can be an indication of early-childhood brain damage. 

Diagnostics

Diagnosis: How we diagnose cerebral palsy

The diagnosis of cerebral palsy is based on three pillars: 
  1. the medical history of the child with recording of possible risk factors, e.g. premature birth
  2. the findings of a detailed developmental neurological and neuro-orthopaedic clinical examination of the child
  3. magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to visualise the underlying brain lesion. We particularly recommend this if there are no relevant findings from the neonatal period (e.g. an ultrasound scan of the brain). 

The purpose of these detailed diagnostics is to confirm the diagnosis of cerebral palsy and to rule out other diseases that only resemble cerebral palsy. We can also determine exactly what form of cerebral palsy it is, and what individual abilities and disorders the child has. This differentiation is particularly important: For example, a child with severely impaired motor skills may still have quite good mental abilities. Only with differentiated diagnostics and classification can we provide individual therapy that is tailored to the child. 

Instrument-based examinations

We have clinical expertise in the field of paediatric neurology and neuro-orthopaedics at Schoen Clinic. In addition, we have a high level of physiotherapeutic, occupational therapeutic and logopaedic expertise in the field of childhood developmental disorders as well as neuropsychology to assess the state of mental development. All of the examinations necessary for the diagnosis can be performed at our clinic:
  • Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography for the central nervous system and the skeletal system
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Evoked potentials
  • X-ray diagnostics to evaluate the skeletal system
  • Ultrasound examination of muscles and joints
  • Instrumental three-dimensional gait analysis
  • Ophthalmological examination, hearing test 
  • Endoscopic swallowing diagnostics

Special laboratory tests

If there are any doubts about the diagnosis of cerebral palsy or if risk factors are to be examined, we arrange for special laboratory tests to be performed. These include, among other things:
  • Metabolic diagnostics
  • Genetic diagnostics (from simple to complex)
  • Clarification of risk factors such as thrombophilia (= increased tendency to form blood clots)