How Long Can Someone Live with Cerebral Palsy?
Generally, children born with cerebral palsy can expect to live between 30 and 70 years on average. Those with the longest life expectancies usually have more mobility, better medical care, and adaptive equipment. They also have greater autonomy and independence.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, and the condition lasts for life. However, unlike many other serious health conditions, cerebral palsy does not worsen over time. This is because the condition is caused by a one-time brain injury. Other co-occuring factors and separate conditions not caused by the initial brain injury may impact health and life expectancy over time. However, the majority of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy can expect a relatively normal life expectancy.
Does Condition Severity Impact Life Expectancy?
Better mobility usually means the ability to exercise on a regular basis, and regular exercise is key to strong muscular and cardiovascular health. Children with more severe versions of cerebral palsy may have significant difficulty with mobility, seizures, or even respiratory problems.
These severe cases of cerebral palsy usually necessitate more medical care and can lower life expectancy. It is estimated that the average lifetime costs of treating cerebral palsy are over $900,000. These costs include everything from doctor’s visits to surgeries and the purchase of adaptive equipment, which are tools that can help a person complete daily tasks that may otherwise be difficult for them.
Studies have shown that adaptive equipment can play a major role in improving mobility and thus extending the lifespan of individuals who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Examples of adaptive equipment are:
- Leg lifters for getting in and out of bed
- Raised toilet seats
- Shower grab bars
There are also adaptive tools for feeding, dressing, and hygiene that can help make activities of daily living (ADLs) more achievable independently.
If your child has been diagnosed with a mild to moderate form of cerebral palsy, which is the majority of cases, they will likely have a life expectancy relatively similar to a child born without the condition.
Complications That May Impact Lifespan
There are several specific cerebral palsy-related complications that can adversely affect an individual’s lifespan.
Unlike the underlying condition and symptoms, which do not change, health complications stemming from the condition may change over time. For example, seizures and muscle spasticity issues are inherent to cerebral palsy. However, if a seizure causes a cerebral palsy patient to fall and break their leg, that is considered a health complication.
Seizures can be one of the most serious health complications. They involve involuntary convulsions, loss of consciousness, and sensory disturbances. Seizures are a common characteristic in people with epilepsy. If left untreated, seizures can cause damage to additional regions of the brain.
There is also the potential for accidental physical harm after losing consciousness during a seizure. Physical injury can occur from falling to the ground or on a sharp object.
Seizures are generally treated by anti-seizure and anti-convulsant medications such as Dilantin®, Zarontin®, and Tegretol®. In severe cases of epilepsy, the expected lifespan of the patient may be reduced.
Muscle spasticity and reduced range of motion are often associated with cerebral palsy. However, in extreme cases, those diagnosed with the condition do not have the ability to move at all.
In severe cases of cerebral palsy, the patient may suffer from spastic quadriplegia. This condition consists of total body paralysis. Some of these patients also suffer from respiratory issues. Nearly all of them need adaptive equipment and medical assistance to get around. Limited mobility generally means reduced cardiovascular and muscular health. This can lead to dangerous complications like high blood pressure.
Extending Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy
Medications and therapies can help to extend the lifespan of a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It is important for parents of children with cerebral palsy to work with a medical professional to determine which treatments will have the most positive effect.
Individuals who suffer from seizures often improve their condition with anti-seizure medications. Medications that treat muscle spasticity can significantly improve mobility, muscle strength, and cardiovascular health in children with cerebral palsy.
When spastic symptoms are reduced, and a child can have more autonomy in their daily tasks without requiring another’s assistance, this can also boost feelings of confidence and normalcy and improve a child’s mental health.
Improving Mental Health
Improving the emotional well-being of a child with cerebral palsy is also critical to their long-term health. Group therapy is a great way for children with cerebral palsy to make friends and reduce stress.
Children who participate in sports and socialize also tend to have better mental health than those who do not. Children with cerebral palsy can participate in sports with adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair or a brace. Wheelchair basketball has become very popular in recent years, and children with cerebral palsy can play with the help of adaptive tools.
Each case of cerebral palsy is unique and requires its own specific medical regimen. Parents of a child with cerebral palsy cannot compare their child’s condition directly to another’s. Your medical provider will work with you to find the most optimal treatment plan for your child.
Get Support After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Although cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that requires management, children diagnosed with the condition can expect to have relatively normal lifespans.
However, children with cerebral palsy generally require much more medical attention than those born without the condition. Families will need a treatment plan and adequate finances to ensure that their child gets the best care possible throughout their lifetime.
Since many cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical negligence that could have been prevented, a lawsuit can provide families with the financial assistance necessary for lifelong care.