How Is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?
Events that cause a child to develop CP, including medical malpractice, frequently occur around the time of birth. But typically, CP is not diagnosed until significant motor impairment shows itself, which may take more than a year. Following an observational diagnosis of assessing key milestones that your child has or has not hit per the appropriate developmental timeline, we recommend you contact your pediatrician or family physician if you’re noticing common signs of cerebral palsy in your infant or newborn.
If your doctor thinks your child is showing early signs of cerebral palsy, they’ll perform a series of tests to diagnose the condition properly. In many cases, your child’s pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric neurologist, who specializes in diseases that affect a child’s nervous system. From there, the pediatric neurologist will conduct several neurological tests (as shared below) to determine if your child has CP. Though there’s not a single test or scan that can definitively confirm CP, several types of diagnostic tests can help provide evidence that your child may have CP.
Imaging Tests and Brain Scans
CP develops when a brain injury occurs during a child’s neurological development. Imaging testing allows doctors to view and assess a child’s brain injuries. Neuroimaging involves taking pictures of the brain through non-invasive measures.
There are various types of imaging tests and brain scans a doctor may perform, such as computerized tomography (CT). During a CT scan, several X-rays are taken from multiple angles to create cross-sections of the brain. The number of angles taken provides a more detailed view of the brain as opposed to straightforward X-rays.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Doctors also regularly conduct MRI scans to help diagnose CP. Because of the detailed brain images an MRI can produce, it’s often one of the first tests a doctor might choose to perform. An MRI scan uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce a 3D image of the brain in black and white. After the MRI, doctors view the images that show the activity of your child’s brain. Based on their observations, they can determine if there is any irregular behavior, lesions on the brain, or malformations, all of which may indicate brain damage.
MRI scans allow a doctor to determine if your child has CP and what may have caused it. While an MRI is a non-invasive, pain-free, safe, and effective way to monitor your child’s irregular brain behavior, it may take up to an hour and is a loud process. Doctors often recommend giving your child a light sedative beforehand so he or she remains still and calm throughout the scanning.
Since epilepsy is extremely common for a child with CP, frequent seizures are one of the many signs of brain dysfunction in infants and newborns. To make a proper diagnosis, it is important to get an EEG if your child experiences frequent seizures or shows other signs of epilepsy. An EEG measures the electrical activity in the brain. During the test, doctors attach small metal patches called electrodes to the scalp to record electrical waves in your child’s brain.
An EEG is a painless procedure that gives doctors a clearer understanding of what’s going on. Essentially, it allows the doctors to determine if your child has any kind of brain disorder.
Another type of imaging test is a cranial ultrasound that uses sound waves to take an image of the brain. Cranial ultrasounds are mainly used to determine if an infant had bleeding in the brain, such as an intracranial hemorrhage. If a doctor suspects brain trauma around the time of birth, they may conduct a cranial ultrasound to confirm it. During the ultrasound, a doctor photographs the brain while primarily focusing on the white tissue around it.
After each test, you’ll be provided with the results and a professional opinion about the diagnosis and prognosis. When your child receives a CP diagnosis, it helps you understand their health status and get them the treatment they need as soon as possible.
Though there are several ways to treat CP after a diagnosis, your child’s CP may have a large impact on your family. If you suspect that your loved one’s CP is the result of medical malpractice, you may have a case and be eligible for compensation. Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC has a history of helping families with these types of cases across the country. Contact us today for legal advice.