Cerebral Palsy (cont.)
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Exams and Tests
Diagnosing cerebral palsy
Signs of cerebral palsy (CP) may not be present or detected at birth. A doctor may closely monitor a newborn or child for signs of CP if he or she has known risk factors. These factors may be related to problems during pregnancy or birth, being born early (premature birth), or problems that occur within the first 2 or 3 years of life.
Doctors use caution in diagnosing CP too early because some babies who have motor skill abnormalities soon after birth never develop CP.
Sometimes symptoms may not appear until the nervous system matures with the continual growth of the brain, nerves, and muscles. It can take up to a few years before doctors determine whether a baby with body movement and posture (motor) problems has CP.
Cerebral palsy is diagnosed based on observations of a baby's or young child's physical development delays or irregularities, medical history, a physical exam, screening tests, and other tests, such as MRI. Specifically, these tests include:
Taken together, results of these tests can point to a diagnosis of CP.3
If diagnosis is unclear, additional tests may be done to evaluate the brain and possibly rule out other conditions. Sometimes, results from these tests can also be useful in evaluating the severity of CP. Tests may include:
Evaluating and monitoring cerebral palsy
After CP is diagnosed, a child will also be checked for other medical conditions that can occur with cerebral palsy, such as:
Most of the time, a doctor can predict many of the long-term physical effects of CP when a child is 1 to 3 years old. But sometimes such predictions are not possible until a child reaches school age when learning, communication skills, and other abilities can be measured.
Some children need repeated testing that may include:
Additional tests may be needed, depending on the child's symptoms or other conditions that are present.
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