Study Yields Clues to Cerebral Palsy

Infections during pregnancy, premature delivery linked to the illness

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TUESDAY, Oct. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Very premature birth, maternal infections during pregnancy, and certain findings on MRI scans are among several factors associated with cerebral palsy, new research suggests.

Learning more about the causes of cerebral palsy may lead to new ways to treat it, the study's European authors noted in the Oct. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research, conducted at eight centers in Europe, included 585 children born with cerebral palsy between 1996 and 1999. The researchers found that:

  • 39.5 percent of the children's mothers reported an infection during pregnancy.
  • 51 (12 percent) of the children were from a multiple pregnancy.
  • 10.9 percent of the children were born very premature (less than 28 weeks gestation), while 16 percent were born between 28 and 31 weeks, 18.3 percent were born between 32 and 36 weeks, and 54 percent were born at term. Emergency Caesarean deliveries were performed in 32.3 percent of the births.
  • Of the 351 children who had an MRI, 42.5 percent were found to have "white matter damage of immaturity" -- brain areas affected by underdevelopment. Only 11.7 percent of the children had normal MRI findings.

Based on their findings, the team of researchers led by Dr. Martin Bax of Imperial College, London, advised that "all children with CP should have an MRI scan."

"Not only do MRI scans help reveal the pathologic basis of the condition but, also, the findings have strong correlations with clinical findings," the researchers wrote. "This may be useful in helping parents, clinicians, and others involved in the care of children with CP to understand the nature of the children's condition and to predict their needs in the future."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about cerebral palsy.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Oct. 3, 2006


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