Cerebral Palsy Types

Medical negligence or malpractice can lead to birth injuries that cause cerebral palsy. There are different types of cerebral palsy, each of which impacts a child in different ways. Sokolove Law may be able to help if your child suffered a birth injury due to an error committed by a doctor, health care provider, or other medical professional.

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Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy isn’t a single condition. It’s a collection of issues that affect motor skills. The word “cerebral” involves the brain, while the word “palsy” refers to problems using muscles or muscle weakness. When medical malpractice affects a baby’s brain, it can be difficult or impossible for the child to control their muscles.

Typically, cerebral palsy is classified according to the parts of the body or motor functions that are affected. In some instances, one arm or leg is impaired. In others, both limbs or an entire region of the body don’t work properly.

Two terms are commonly used to describe how cerebral palsy affects muscle tone: 

  • Hypotonia is a lack of muscle tone or floppiness. A child with hypotonia may have problems holding their head up or difficulty sitting up.
  • Hypertonia means the opposite — the child has a tight muscle tone, which can make the legs and arms so stiff that it’s hard to move them.

In addition, there are four main types of cerebral palsy: 

  • Spastic cerebral palsy
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed cerebral palsy

Sokolove Law has registered nurses on staff, who can help you determine whether or not your child may have suffered some sort of brain injury due to a medical error. Get a free case review today to learn more about your potential legal options.

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Spastic Cerebral Palsy

This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all cases. It typically leads to excessive muscle tone (hypertonia) as well as spasticity or jerking movements.

There are three kinds of spastic cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic diplegia
  • Spastic hemiplegia
  • Spastic quadriplegia

The main cause of spastic cerebral palsy is damage to the motor cortex or the part of the developing brain that is responsible for controlling voluntary movements. It can also occur due to damage to parts of the brain known as the pyramidal tracts, which are responsible for sending messages from the brain to the muscles.

There are many ways that medical malpractice or negligence can contribute to this type of brain damage, including:

  • A doctor failing to perform a C-section in a timely manner or notice issues before birth, like a fever or infection in the mother or signs that there will be a premature birth
  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during birth

Spastic Diplegia

This form of spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by stiffness in the arms or legs. In most cases the legs are more affected than the arms.

Signs of spastic diplegia may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Issues with balance and coordination
  • Walking on toes rather than the soles of the feet
  • Legs that are crossed at the knees
  • Delayed milestones, such as sitting, rolling over, and standing

Medical malpractice, or medical errors committed before, during, or shortly after birth, can result in spastic diplegia.

Spastic Hemiplegia

Spastic hemiplegia usually affects one side of a baby’s body, leading to continual contraction of the muscles. If the left side of the brain is affected, the limbs on the right side will have issues. The opposite will be the case if the right side of the brain is affected.

Signs of spastic hemiplegia include:

  • Lack of balance
  • Stiffness or muscle weakness on one side
  • Difficulty grasping objects
  • Difficulty walking

As with other forms of cerebral palsy, a brain hemorrhage that occurs due to a medical mistake can sometimes lead to spastic hemiplegia.

Spastic Quadriplegia

This is the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy, resulting in motor dysfunction affecting all limbs. Children with spastic quadriplegia are at a higher risk of developing cognitive problems as well as issues with feeding and speaking. They are also more prone to deformities of the spine.

One of the main causes of spastic quadriplegia is asphyxiation or a lack of oxygen to the brain. This often occurs when a medical professional fails to notice signs that the umbilical cord has wrapped around the neck.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, also known as athetoid cerebral palsy, often leads to abrupt movements that take on the appearance of twisting. Muscle control is often impossible, leading to slow, irregular motions that tend to repeat.

During delivery, a medical professional may commit malpractice by causing a brain injury that can result in dyskinetic cerebral palsy. An undetected or untreated infection in the mother before delivery can also lead to development of the condition.

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Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic cerebral palsy leads to severe issues with coordination. Movements are continually jerky or disorganized. Walking, or even trying to pick up an object, can be difficult. Other signs include tremors and unsteadiness as well as a lack of depth perception.

An injury to the portion of the brain known as the cerebellum — which controls balance — is the main cause of ataxic cerebral palsy. Improper use of forceps or other medical instruments during delivery can damage the cerebellum and other parts of the brain.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

If a child has more than one kind of cerebral palsy, then their condition is referred to as mixed cerebral palsy. This occurs when a child suffers damage to several parts of the brain. The most common type of mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of dyskinetic and spastic cerebral palsy. Both are characterized by involuntary movements.

Cerebral Palsy and Movement Problems

When diagnosing cerebral palsy, doctors determine the type of cerebral palsy based on the kinds of movement problems the child is experiencing. The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) is used to diagnose the form of cerebral palsy as well as the type of treatment needed.

There are five levels of the GMFCS, including:

  • Level I – The child can walk indoors and outside without having to use their hands for support. They can even run and jump. But the child will have minor issues with coordination and balance.
  • Level II – The child has trouble with inclines and uneven surfaces, as well as jumping and running.
  • Level III – Children in this category can only walk with assistive devices and may need a wheelchair for longer distances.
  • Level IV – Walking is extremely difficult, even with assistive devices. The child will typically need a wheelchair but may be able to propel the wheelchair using their arms.
  • Level V – The child cannot stand or sit on their own and cannot walk. They may also have difficulty moving or may not be able to maintain a normal head and neck position. All areas of motor function are impaired.

If your child is having problems moving normally, cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence may be to blame. Get a free case review today to learn more about how we may be able to help.

Get Help Paying for Your Child’s Treatment

Whether your child has already been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or you simply believe that something’s not quite right and you want to know why, Sokolove Law may be able to help. We have registered nurses on staff who can listen to your story and help provide answers.

With more than 40 years of experience helping families affected by injuries like cerebral palsy, Sokolove Law has recovered more than $709 Million on behalf of families whose children suffered injuries at birth.

Our team of skilled and compassionate cerebral palsy attorneys will work to get you the answers you need and clearly spell out the next steps regarding legal action. The costs of caring for a child with cerebral palsy can be incredibly high. We may be able to help you get compensation as well as justice for child’s injuries.

In many cases, proper medical care could have prevented a birth injury from happening. By holding medical professionals accountable for their mistakes, you may be able to help prevent other families from experiencing what yours has gone through.

Learn more about how we can help by reaching out to Sokolove Law today.

Cerebral Palsy Types FAQs

Is cerebral palsy a movement disorder?

Cerebral palsy is the name given to a group of several disorders that impair movement and affect posture and muscle tone. Symptoms will typically appear during infancy but may sometimes not become apparent until a child reaches preschool age. Delays in meeting developmental milestones, stiff limbs, trouble moving, and involuntary movements are just some of the signs of CP.

How does cerebral palsy affect movement?

Cerebral palsy affects different children in different ways. Some may find it hard to perform everyday tasks, such as tying their shoes or writing. Others may have difficulty walking, have weakness on one side of the body, or experience involuntary muscle movements.

The kind of movements that are affected will depend on the type of cerebral palsy a child has. If a child has ataxic cerebral palsy, for example, they will have difficulty maintaining balance and exhibit jerky, disorganized movements.

How many types of cerebral palsy are there?

There are four main types of cerebral palsy, all of which may be caused by medical negligence or medical malpractice. These include:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy
  • Mixed cerebral palsy

What are the four types of cerebral palsy?

Here’s a brief look at each of the four main kinds of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy – The most common type of cerebral palsy, spastic cerebral palsy is typically characterized by stiff muscles and involuntary movements, also known as spasticity.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy – This is a form of cerebral palsy also known as athetoid cerebral palsy. It often makes it hard to control the muscles, leading to twisting, irregular, and repetitive motions.
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy – Ataxic cerebral palsy results in a severe lack of coordination. A child may find it impossible to do simple things like picking something up or walking.
  • Mixed cerebral palsy – Sometimes, a child will show signs of having more than one type of cerebral palsy. This is known as mixed cerebral palsy.

What is the most common cause of cerebral palsy?

The most common cause of cerebral palsy is a lack of oxygen to the brain. In many instances, medical malpractice or negligence on the part of a doctor or health care professional is to blame for a cerebral palsy diagnosis.

For example, asphyxia occurs when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen and can lead to cerebral palsy symptoms.

A doctor may fail to notice signs that the umbilical cord has wrapped around the neck, cutting off oxygen and depriving the brain in the process.

What is hypotonic cerebral palsy?

When a child is said to have hypotonic cerebral palsy, it means they have a lack of muscle tone. The arms and legs will have a floppy appearance.

What is spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy?

This is the most severe form of cerebral palsy, affecting all the extremities. Children with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy will typically have extremely stiff arms and legs as well as a floppy neck or tight core. They often have difficulty walking and talking.

What is mixed cerebral palsy?

Some children have more than one kind of cerebral palsy because they have injuries to different parts of the brain — oftentimes because of medical negligence or malpractice. When this occurs, the child has mixed cerebral palsy. A combination of dyskinetic and spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of mixed cerebral palsy.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

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The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 23, 2021

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