Cerebral Palsy, as you may already know at this stage, is a medical term that describes an array of disabilities that affect a young child’s motor skills (ability to move ) However, unlike other common complications, cerebral palsy is completely non-progressive, though it is permanent and untreatable. This doesn’t mean that cerebral palsy patients cannot lead an almost normal full life. On the contrary, some CP patients have been known to live longer than their fully healthy counterparts. But with even with that as the backdrop, the age-old question of the life expectancy of cerebral palsy children will inevitably pop up at one time or another. Here is a detailed analysis.
It Greatly Depends on the Severity of the Damage
There has been few to no particular studies targeting to analyze the life expectancy of people diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Nonetheless, the life expectancy of the child with cerebral palsy is greatly influenced by the severity of the brain damage. All other factors held constant, a baby diagnosed with a mild case of cerebral palsy is expected to live a longer, fuller life than one with extensive intellectual and mobility problems. As such, severe impairment will significantly diminish the chances of the child seeing their second decade birthday and most of them don’t live beyond the first five years. If anything, extreme severe cases of cerebral palsy, which confine the baby to 100% round-the-clock parental care, can lead to death before the infant’s first 24 months of life. For example, CP patients born with frozen joints and contracture have the locomotive inability to be fully independent, and the impaired cognitive functioning drastically reduces their chances of surviving the first crucial ten years of life.
In other words, as far as life expectancy and severity of the condition go, the more severe it is, the more susceptible to premature death they are. There is, however, an aggravated risk of early death for children diagnosed with extreme spasticity or those with quadriparesis and quadriplegia. In most cases, these infants are born underweight and, as a consequence, die a few hours after birth. Those born with jaundice stemming from severe brain damage or other vital organs also fall in this bracket.
The Quality of the Treatment or Care Offered
Although cerebral palsy is ordinarily a condition that rarely progresses or worsens in severity, the overall effects of the child’s brain injury can worsen or improve with treatment. For instance, pressure sores that a characteristic of a bed-ridden, motion-impaired CP patient can quickly become life threatening if not attended to urgently. Remember that any untreated, festering infection – even to a normal and healthy person – puts a significant strain on the body’s immune system. Therefore, to some extent, the expected lifespan of a CP patient is directly pegged on the accessibility of quality cognitive disability treatment. And this explains why patients from low-income family backgrounds live shorter lives than those who can afford advanced and specialized healthcare.
On the other end of the spectrum, children who respond better to occupational and physical therapy and have little or no intellectual development impairments, are likely to lead longer lives than those who don’t respond to treatment.
The Presence and Severity of Related Health Complications
Cerebral palsy is often accompanied with a number of life-threatening key disabilities and impairments. And most often than not, these complications are the chief cause of premature death and not the brain damage itself. Lack of sufficient exercise and inactivity, for instance, stemming from mild paralysis or contracture spine/hips weaken the body and accelerate the excessive wear of vital organs such as the heart.
Of concern is CP children who suffer from occasional and severe seizures. Although seizures emanate or spring from the brain, they are rarely as a result of the same brain injury that defines Cerebral Palsy. But even then, CP patients tend to suffer more from seizures than average children, and this diminishes their life expectancy greatly. Prolonged and frequent seizures will typically affect sensation, vision, muscle control, emotions, and consciousness. All these are factors that add up take a toll on a patient’s ability to lead a long, healthy life well into late adulthood.
The Bottom Line
Taking all the above factors into consideration, the life expectancy of an average cerebral palsy patient hinge between 5 and 30 years. Note that as much as newborn CP patient can die a few days after birth, they can also live long enough to their 60s and 70s will proper healthcare in place.