Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Fact-Checked and Medically Reviewed by:
Katie Lavender, RN Registered Nurse
Quick Answer

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a child's brain in areas that help people move and maintain their balance. Different types of cerebral palsy are caused by damage in different parts of the brain. Mixed cerebral palsy happens when more than one part is damaged, which causes the child to have a mix of symptoms.

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Mixed Cerebral Palsy Explained

Because mixed cerebral palsy is a combination of different cerebral palsy types, it’s important to know what causes the condition in the first place. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of conditions of the brain and nervous system that impair functions like movement, cognition, sight, and possibly hearing. While cerebral palsy is non-progressive, meaning it won’t get worse, the symptoms your child faces can change over time.

Cerebral palsy is caused when the motor cortex, basal ganglia, or cerebellum—parts of the brain that control muscle tone—are damaged. Each of these parts can cause different motor impairments like stiffness or spastic movements and are associated with a different type of cerebral palsy.

  • Motor Cortex: Damage to the motor cortex causes spastic cerebral palsy. This means your child’s muscle tone is increased, making their muscles very stiff.
  • Basal Ganglia: The basal ganglia are associated with dyskinetic cerebral palsy, which is when your child’s muscle tone changes from being too loose to too tight. Another sign of dyskinetic cerebral palsy is that your child will also struggle to control the movement of their arms and legs.
  • Cerebellum: An injury to the cerebellum can cause ataxic cerebral palsy, which affects a person’s ability to control balance and coordination.

Mixed cerebral palsy is when an individual has more than one type of the condition. The most common combination is spastic-dyskinetic, followed by spastic-ataxic. Around 10 percent of children who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy have a mixed type.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t mean children with it are destined to have a bad life. With the right treatments and therapies, your child can have a fun and fulfilling life. Some of the treatment options available are medicine, surgery, braces, and physical, occupational, or speech therapies. What treatments will work best depends on what combination of cerebral palsy your child has.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy Symptoms and Effects

Mixed cerebral palsy can cause a variety of symptoms depending on which part of the body it affects. Diplegic cerebral palsy affects either both legs or both arms. Hemiplegic cerebral palsy affects one side of the body, and quadriplegic cerebral palsy affects all four limbs.

Mixed cerebral palsy combines two or more movement issues, including:

  • Hyperkinetic – excessive voluntary or involuntary movements
  • Hypokinetic – decreased or slow, purposeful movements
  • Dyskinetic – inability to control movements
  • Dystonia – involuntary movement and a constantly abnormal posture
  • Spastic – increased muscle tension, stiffness, rigidity, awkward or abrupt movements
  • Non-spastic – involuntary movements decreased or fluctuating muscle tone

Some of these symptoms won’t appear until months after your child is born, which is why doctors cannot diagnose a child with cerebral palsy until they are 6 months or older unless it is very severe. Children are normally diagnosed between the ages of 1 and 3. For the first year of your child’s life, you and your doctors must monitor your child for symptoms.

Parents should pay close attention if their child experiences any delays in reaching their developmental milestones. For example, children with cerebral palsy often cannot hold their head up until around 2 months, roll over unassisted by 4 months, or crawl by 10 months.

Other early signs that you might notice are:

  • A preference for one hand over the other (he or she will reach out with one but keep the other one balled into a fist)
  • A continuation of neonatal reflexes after they usually disappear (like the startle reflex)
  • A delay in the start of protective reflexes, such as taking hands off of hot objects
  • A delay in the start of postural reflexes, such as stretching out their arms to stop themselves from falling over
  • Asymmetrical movements (using one leg more when crawling)
  • Hyperreflexia is a condition where your child’s reflexes are oversensitive and cause twitching, shaking, or spasticity (e.g., trembling hands)
  • Excessive drooling and difficulty feeding and swallowing

Other symptoms that may become apparent later on include difficulty falling and staying asleep, stomach acid leaking into the esophagus, hips that dislocate easily, difficulty speaking and communicating with others, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and eye problems like uncontrollable eye movements or reduced vision.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy Causes

Mixed cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a child’s brain. This damage can happen before the child is born, at birth, or after they are born while their brain is still developing.

If it happens before or during birth, it is considered to be congenital cerebral palsy. This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, making up 85 to 90 percent of all cases. Of these instances, less than 10 percent are caused by birth trauma or asphyxia (lack of oxygen) during birth.

If the child’s brain developed abnormally, doctors might not know what caused the damage. They may suspect things like intrauterine infections, placental complications, and maternal seizures may play a role. However, medical negligence during, shortly before, or after childbirth can also cause cerebral palsy in newborns.

Acquired cerebral palsy is another type of the condition. Acquired cerebral palsy occurs when a child injures their head or contracts an infection like meningitis after they were born. This happens in very rare cases. Infants born prematurely run a higher risk of developing acquired cerebral palsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mixed Cerebral Palsy Treatment and Therapy

There may not be a cure for mixed cerebral palsy, but there are many different treatment options available to help your child manage their symptoms, from surgery to medicine to physical therapy.

After your child has been diagnosed, sit down with your doctor to discuss some of the different options available to your child, along with the risks and benefits of these treatment plans. Your child’s treatment should be tailored to their specific combination of cerebral palsy types.

Children with mixed cerebral palsy face a range of symptoms and motor function challenges due to damage in multiple areas of the brain. This complexity often requires a combination of various therapies, additional medications, and potentially more surgeries.

The need for diverse treatments and increased care increases the financial burden, particularly when more than one type of cerebral palsy is involved, and additional assistance is required. Families of children with cerebral palsy, especially quadriplegic CP, may need substantial financial support to manage the condition properly.

Legal Help for Mixed Cerebral Palsy

Families may be eligible for compensation if their child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence or improper medical care. Legal compensation can help you cover the cost of care for your child. Take the first step by completing a free legal case review.

Our partner law firm’s nurse case managers will help you start the process of getting your questions answered. There is no obligation and it is entirely free, so call (800) 914-1562 to get a free medical case review today.

Birth Injury Support Team
Reviewed by:Katie Lavender, RN

Registered Nurse

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Katie Lavender has over 8 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in postpartum mother/baby care. With hands-on experience in Labor and Delivery and a role as a Community Educator for newborn care, Katie is a staunch advocate for patient rights and education. As a Medical Reviewer, she is committed to ensuring accurate and trustworthy patient information.

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
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