How Does Cerebral Palsy Affect a Person’s Lifespan?

Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive neurological disorder. This means that on its own, cerebral palsy does not worsen with time or shorten an individual’s lifespan. However, cerebral palsy can cause severe deficits and predispose individuals to other medical conditions. The combination of disorders results in a shorter than average lifespan for many children with cerebral palsy. 

 What Affects the Lifespan of Individuals With Cerebral Palsy?

People with mild cerebral palsy may have an average life expectancy, while those living with severe cerebral palsy might have a shortened lifespan. The number and severity of symptoms associated with the condition have the most significant effect on an individual’s life expectancy. Certain factors only affect quality of life, while others can impact lifespan as well.

●      Epilepsy

Seizures are present in up to half of children with cerebral palsy. Frequent seizures can cause injury when the child loses motor control and has spasms due to uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Each seizure puts the child at risk of more seizures in the future.

For most patients, seizures can be controlled with medications and diet changes. Sometimes individuals with cerebral palsy fail to find an effective treatment to prevent seizures. If the seizures are not successfully managed, the child is more likely to have a shortened lifespan.

●      Mobility and Muscle Issues

Cerebral palsy affects mobility differently for every child. Severe mobility issues significantly impact the quality of life and life expectancy of individuals with cerebral palsy. The inability to control different muscle groups can increase the risk of developing several other medical conditions.

Children with cerebral palsy may have a musculoskeletal disorder as well. Conditions like cervical stenosis, hip dysplasia, and scoliosis may complicate the child’s ability to receive treatment.

●      Respiratory Conditions

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia is a condition that commonly affects premature children and can occur alongside cerebral palsy. This condition may require lifelong breathing treatments and put children at increased risk of infection.

Cerebral palsy patients have a high likelihood of developing gastroesophageal reflux, commonly known as heartburn. When acid reflux is combined with poor motor control and difficulty swallowing in cerebral palsy patients, they have an increased risk of lung infections like pneumonia. Repeated lung infections can lead to severe breathing difficulties that could be life-threatening.

●      Vision

Poor vision has been linked with a reduced life expectancy in cerebral palsy patients. Currently, it’s unclear why this is the case. Studies are ongoing to determine how vision impairment reduces lifespan in cerebral palsy.

●      Cognitive Ability

Intellectual disability is common in children with cerebral palsy. Up to 50% of all cerebral palsy patients suffer from reduced cognitive ability. Intellectual capability is a strong predictor of lifespan, even in children without cerebral palsy.

How Does Quality of Life Affect Lifespan?

Even with severe disabilities, children with cerebral palsy can have an improved quality of life. Working with your healthcare team, you can provide targeted therapies that reduce your child’s impairments and help them live an engaged and high-quality life.

Improving your child’s overall mobility, eating, swallowing, and speech skills can significantly impact their quality of life. Targeting these critical skills can increase independence, allowing children with cerebral palsy to participate in everyday care tasks independently and gain self-sufficiency in adulthood. 

By working closely with your healthcare team to establish goals and realistic expectations, you can improve your child’s emotional well-being, quality of life, and life expectancy. Knowledge of their condition and early warning signs for severe complications can help you stay on top of issues and get care early to provide the best chance for a long and productive life.

Indiana Birth Injury Attorneys

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder that significantly impacts families emotionally, physically, and financially. Complications that arise in the delivery room can alter the life path of a child from the onset. When doctors, nurses, and midwives fail to respond to complications appropriately and injury occurs, victims and their families may have the right to file civil lawsuits on the grounds of medical malpractice.

Indiana cerebral palsy lawyers at Wagner Reese have extensive experience managing cerebral palsy cases and other medical malpractice suits. With our knowledge, resources, and expertise, we can answer any questions you might have about a potential birth injury case.

If you or a loved one has an infant that has suffered from brain damage, cerebral palsy, or another birth injury arising before, during, or after birth, give the trusted and compassionate team at Wagner Reese a call today.