Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy (also referred to as Diplegic Cerebral Palsy) is one of the most common types of CP diagnosed in children.
There are four different types of cerebral palsy and Spastic is one of the four affecting nearly 80% of the kids diagnosed.
So what is Spastic Diplegia? What are the causes, signs, treatment, and diagnosis?
These are very common questions surrounding this condition.
This post will breakdown what you need to know and hopefully answer any of those lingering questions that come to mind.
Let’s dive in.
What is Spastic Diplegia?
Those that have spastic cerebral palsy will have issues in their legs.
You will commonly see a child experience a ‘scissor walk’ where their knees will be turning inward. The reason this happens is that they have more muscle stiffness in their hips and legs.
‘Scissor walk’ (also known as scissoring gait) is an abnormal walking pattern where the thighs and knees will press together or cross over each other.
==> Click here for my recommended tool to help with a child’s leg posture (which is commonly used during intensive physical therapy sessions and suggested by therapists). <==
Here’s a short video to show you what a scissor walk looks like.
What Causes Spastic Diplegia?
When a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy it is from brain damage that happens either before or right after birth.
The same goes for Spastic Diplegia or any of the other three types of cerebral palsy which you can learn more about by clicking here. The cause or ‘how it happened’ all stem from damage to the brain that occurred at a specific point in time.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), babies born prematurely and with low birth weight are at a heightened risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Sadly, a small percentage of cerebral palsy cases result from a medical mistake by a healthcare provider where medical tools were used improperly when delivering the baby and caused damage to their brain (such as from forceps or vacuum extractors).
Let’s summarize the causes of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy:
- Babies born prematurely.
- Babies born with a low birth weight.
- Medical mistake caused by a healthcare provider.
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.).
- When a baby is breech.
- Mother was exposed to methyl mercury (which is very toxic and can happen from eating fish or shellfish).
- Mother and child’s blood types are not compatible.
- Infections during pregnancy.
- Medical condition of the mother (thyroid issues or seizures).
Early Signs to Look For
If your child has cerebral palsy, signs will appear in the first several months of their life so it’s important to know what to look for.
HOWEVER, I want to mention that the majority of kids who become diagnosed with cerebral palsy are usually between the ages 1 to 2 years old. It’s not a condition that’s commonly diagnosed right away.
Reason being, a child will start experiencing developmental delays meaning they are not hitting developmental milestones.
Those milestones are pivotal moments in a parent’s life where their child is learning to roll over, crawl, stand, or walk which normally happens between the ages of 1 to 2 years.
If your child is showing one or more of the following signs from birth to age 2 it could indicate motor delay issues. These are just early warning signs to keep in mind and possibly discuss with your child’s doctor:
- Can not hold up their head while being picked up, lying down on their back, or stomach.
- When held, they feel ‘floppy’ or ‘stiff’.
- When held, legs become tense or cross like scissors.
- Feeding or swallowing difficulties.
- Unable to roll over or sit up on their own.
- Has difficulty bringing their hands together or to their mouth.
- Reaches out with one hand while their other hand is in a fist.
- Cannot stand while holding onto support.
- Crawls lopsided.
- Walking on toes.
- Coordination and balance issues.
P.S. … I know the picture to the right is a little blurry but it was too darn cute not to post! Photo credit The LENN Foundation.
Diagnosis and Common Tests
As I briefly mentioned, it is very rare for a child to immediately become diagnosed with cerebral palsy right after birth, but it can happen.
Commonly, by the child not meeting developmental milestones it will alert the parents and doctors that there may be deeper developmental issues occurring.
Especially if the child is having leg movement difficulties (along with other early warning signs mentioned above), it could point in the direction of Spastic Diplegia.
Due to this, some tests below may be performed to determine if a child has cerebral palsy.
Here are five common tests that may be recommended to see if there is brain damage and to rule out other conditions:
- Blood test can help identify cerebral palsy or rule out other conditions (like genetic disorders).
- CAT scan or CT scan of the head which is similar to an x-ray will show if there is brain injury.
- MRI of the head will check for any neurological irregularity.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) looks at the electrical activity in the brain.
- Cranial ultrasound isn’t as detailed as the MRI, but it will show if there is bleeding in the brain.
The GREAT news is there are numerous treatment options available to help a child with cerebral palsy live an all out better quality of life. Even though cerebral palsy is not curable at this time, the condition will not worsen but can drastically improve with combined therapy and treatments.
The treatment the child needs really boils down to the signs and symptoms they are having.
Here are some common treatment options to know:
- Orthotic devices such as a walker, wheelchair, or leg braces to help with independent mobility.
- Physical therapy to help improve motor functions and movement delays.
- Occupational therapy helps a child live an independent lifestyle by assisting them with their activities of daily living (ADL) such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth.
- Medications such as muscle relaxers to help with muscle stiffness.
- Orthopedic surgery to help those experiencing extreme pain in their movements and muscles to receive more relief.
- Stem cell therapy is still a very new treatment BUT this type of therapy has been linked to restoring some movement functions for cerebral palsy patients.
==> To learn about an activity therapists and parents love that allows their kid to have a blast WHILE enhancing their motor functions, click here <== 🙂
Cerebral palsy diagnosed in children can range from mild to severe depending on where and how their brain damage occurred.
It is not a life ending condition by any means it is actually quite the opposite! Those who do have cerebral palsy have incredible abilities and are an inspiration on how to live our lives in the most positive way.
I want to leave you with a post that shares 10 incredible stories about people with cerebral palsy that is sure to make your heart melt (it did mine)! Click here to be inspired.
I hope this information added value to your research efforts in learning more about Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy.
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From the bottom of my heart, thank you for stopping by today!
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