Cerebral Palsy Statistics

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders affecting a person’s brain and nervous system, which can limit their movement, balance, and overall health. Though its cause is not always known, cerebral palsy can be caused by a birth injury resulting from medical negligence on the part of doctors and other health care professionals during or before an infant’s delivery.

By familiarizing yourself with cerebral palsy statistics and facts, you can determine the best course of action in the event that your family is impacted by this condition.

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How Often Does Cerebral Palsy Occur?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability afflicting children. The worldwide incidence of CP is 1-4 per 1,000 births. In the United States, around 3 in 1,000 (or 1 in 345) 8-year-old children have cerebral palsy.

Recent studies have shown a slight decline in the prevalence of CP in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

What Are Some Causes of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy occurs when the brain doesn’t develop normally and/or when a developing brain is damaged. In 85-90% of cases, CP is congenital, meaning the damage occurred during or before the baby’s birth. Often the cause of cerebral palsy isn’t known, but it can also be the result of a birth injury caused by medical negligence by doctors or other health care providers.

A study by The Doctors Company of 1,215 pediatric medical malpractice claims found that the most common allegations in claims involving children under 1 month old were:

  • Obstetrics-related treatment (treatment during birth): 63%
  • Diagnosis-related (failure, delay, or misdiagnosis): 14%
  • Medical treatment (non-obstetric): 13%
  • Surgical treatment (non-anesthesia): 4%

Examples of obstetrics-related medical malpractice claims may involve the following:

  • Delayed birth
  • Improper use of tools such as forceps
  • Medication errors
  • Monitoring issues
  • Oxygen deprivation

Families affected by cerebral palsy should speak to a cerebral palsy lawyer to see if they were victims of medical negligence. If so, they could be owed compensation.

What’s the Most Common Type of Cerebral Palsy?

Spastic cerebral palsy — characterized by arm or leg stiffness — is the most common type of cerebral palsy, accounting for 70-80% of cases.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy — which can cause abrupt, twisting, irregular movements — composes 10-20% of cases.

Ataxic cerebral palsy — which can lead to poor coordination, jerky movements, and trouble walking — make up 5-10% of cases.

It’s also possible (but rare) to have mixed cerebral palsy, a combination of two or three different types of CP.

Who Is Most at Risk for Cerebral Palsy?

The CDC lists several factors that can raise the risk of a baby developing cerebral palsy:

  • Low birthweight: Children who weigh 5 ½ lbs. or less are at a greater risk. The risk is even higher if their weight is less than 3 lbs., 5 oz..
  • Premature birth: Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy, especially those born before the 32nd week, are more likely to develop CP.
  • Multiple births: A study by the International Journal of Epidemiology found that “the risks of producing at least one child with cerebral palsy were 1.5%, 8.0%, 42.9% in twin, triplet, quadruplet pregnancies, respectively.”
  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART)/infertility treatments: A study by Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology found that the CP risk for a baby born via ART was almost three times higher (7.2 per 1,000 live births) than it was for a naturally conceived baby (2.5).
  • Boys: According to the CDC, boys are more likely than girls to develop cerebral palsy.

Other risk factors include infections (such as chickenpox or rubella) during pregnancy; untreated jaundice, which can lead to kernicterus and then CP; and birth complications, some of which result from medical malpractice.

What’s the Most Common Cause of Death in Cerebral Palsy?

According to a study in BMC Neurology, in 58.6% of the people with cerebral palsy who died, the cause was respiratory, such as pneumonia or aspiration (when food or liquid enters the airway). In many cases, seizures, infections, and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease were also contributing factors.

The BMC Neurology study also found that 80% of people with CP are expected to live 58 or more years, with life expectancy decreasing in more severe cases of cerebral palsy.

How Many People With Cerebral Palsy Use Wheelchairs?

BMC Pediatrics states that around one-third of children with cerebral palsy can’t walk. For some, mobility decreases with age: According to the Cerebral Palsy Research Network (CPRN), around 40-50% of adults with cerebral palsy are wheelchair users.

How Much Are Cerebral Palsy Treatment Costs?

A 2003 CDC report estimates that the average lifetime cost of treating someone with CP is $921,000. Today, adjusting for inflation, that number presumably would be even higher.

Cerebral palsy costs may include the following expenses:
  • Adaptive clothing/shoes
  • Home or automobile adaptations
  • Medical expenses (doctor’s appointments, medications, therapy, etc.)
  • Mobility aids
  • Special education programs

How Can I Get Financial Help for Cerebral Palsy?

If your child suffered a birth injury that caused them to develop cerebral palsy, you could be owed money for medical bills and other expenses. A CP attorney can listen to your story and help determine if you qualify for a cerebral palsy lawsuit.

We can connect you with a cerebral palsy law firm with decades of experience, a track record of success, and registered nurses on staff, plus other key resources to make the legal process as painless as possible.

The lawyers in our nationwide network never charge upfront or out-of-pocket fees — they only get paid if your case results in compensation.

Reach out today for a free, no-obligation consultation to see if you qualify for a cerebral palsy lawsuit.

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ReferencesView References
  1. Blair, E.; Langdon, K.; Lawrence, D.; McIntyre, S.; and Watson, L. "Survival and mortality in cerebral palsy: observations to the sixth decade from a data linkage study of a total population register and National Death Index." BMC Neurology. June 4, 2019. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12883-019-1343-1
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Causes and Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy." May 2, 2022. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/causes.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Data and Statistics for Cerebral Palsy." May 2, 2022. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/data.html
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Economic Costs Associated with Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Hearing Loss, and Vision Impairment --- United States, 2003." January 30, 2004. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5303a4.htm
  5. Cerebral Palsy Research Network. "Cerebral Palsy Facts." (n.d.) Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://cprn.org/cerebral-palsy-facts/
  6. Goldsmith, S.; McIntyre, S.; Badawi, N.; and Hansen, M. "Cerebral palsy after assisted reproductive technology: a cohort study." Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. January 2018. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28980316/
  7. Physiopedia. "Classification of Cerebral Palsy." (n.d.) Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://www.physio-pedia.com/Classification_of_Cerebral_Palsy
  8. Ranum, D. "Study of Malpractice Claims Involving Children." The Doctors Company (TDC Group). March 2019. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://www.thedoctors.com/articles/study-of-malpractice-claims-involving-children/
  9. Rodby-Bousquet, E. and Hagglund, G. "Use of manual and powered wheelchair in children with cerebral palsy: a cross-sectional study." BMC Pediatrics. August 16, 2010. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2431-10-59
  10. Yokoyama, Y.; Shimizu, T.; and Hayakawa, K. "Prevalence of cerebral palsy in twins, triplets and quadruplets." International Journal of Epidemiology. October 24, 1995. Retrieved on May 26, 2022 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8557451/

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