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Physical Exam for Cerebral Palsy


Physical Exam for Cerebral Palsy

During the physical exam of a baby suspected of having cerebral palsy, the health professional will:

  • Measure the size of the baby's head with a tape measure. The size is compared with a chart listing the expected head size for the baby's age and weight.
  • Check the baby's body for physical signs of cerebral palsy, such as a stiff, rigid position or a loose, floppy position. Health professionals also look for muscles that don't relax and stiffened joints.
  • Evaluate the baby's ability to move the arms, legs, and body.
  • Determine if the baby has any shakiness (tremors) of the arms and legs.
  • Watch to see if the baby uses only one hand to reach for things.
  • Test the baby's reflexes (body movements that are not under a person's control) to evaluate the nervous system. Temporary (primitive) reflexes, such as throwing up the arms when startled, continue longer in children with cerebral palsy, often lasting into their adult years.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerLouis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last RevisedSeptember 30, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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