Types of Non-Spastic Cerebral Palsy: Dystonic

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Although many people associate cerebral palsy with spasticity, there are some forms of non-spastic CP that affect children. One of these is dystonic cerebral palsy.

What is Dystonic Non-Spastic CP?

Dystonic cerebral palsy, sometimes called dystonia, is a form of CP that causes changes in muscle tone and involuntary movements or uncontrollable muscle contractions. These movements may take the form of tremors, tics, contractions, or other types of dystonia.

Dystonic CP is a type of dyskinetic cerebral palsy, meaning that it affects the child’s movements, making it difficult to walk, sit, and sometimes speak or eat. A person with dyskinetic or dystonic CP may experience frequent and rapid changes in their muscle tone, sometimes daily.

How Does it Differ from Other CP Classifications?

Generally, cerebral palsy is classified by medical professionals according to the main type of muscle or movement disorder involved. There are three main types of CP, including:

  1. Spastic CP refers to patients with increased muscle tone, which causes the muscles to be stiff, resulting in awkward movements.
  2. Dyskinetic or athetoid CP is sometimes caused by damage to the developing basal ganglia and is characterized by problems controlling the body’s movements.
  3. Ataxic CP is characterized by issues with balance and coordination.

The most common type of cerebral palsy, according to the CDC, is spastic, with about 80% of CP patients experiencing that form of the disease. In addition to the three categories above, a child may experience mixed cerebral palsy, meaning they exhibit symptoms from two or more forms of CP. It is important to understand the various classifications of CP, as they may help dictate the types of treatments and therapies available.

How Does Dystonic Non-Spastic CP Commonly Occur?

Most often, dystonic non-spastic CP occurs when there is an injury to the part of the brain called the basal ganglia—the part of the brain largely responsible for regulating voluntary movements and interpreting messages between the spinal cord and the movement center. In some cases, dystonia is present only in some parts of the body, such as the legs or feet, known as focal dystonia. In others, the entire body is potentially affected, known as generalized dystonia.

Dystonic CP is also classified according to the regions of the body affected. Quadriplegia refers to all four limbs and the torso being affected, while triplegia is confined to the three limbs. Hemiplegia refers to CP that affects only one side of the body, and diplegia affects the lower, but not upper, extremities.

What are the Symptoms, Prognosis, and Treatment of Dystonic Non-Spastic CP?

The symptoms of dystonic cerebral palsy include irregular, abrupt, or slow movements; uncontrollable or involuntary movements; twisting or painful movements that can switch between fast and slow; and trouble walking or sitting. Additionally, if the mouth and tongue are affected, patients can experience drooling, issues with controlling the face, and difficulty speaking or eating. The child’s posture may also be awkward.

Although there is currently no cure for dystonic CP, there are various treatments and therapies that can help minimize symptoms and maximize function. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy are all helpful in many cases. Medication can also help in some cases, with some children needing pain medication to manage chronic pain, antispastics to help manage spasticity, or anticonvulsants for seizures.

The prognosis for children with dystonic CP can vary greatly. While many children are only mildly inconvenienced with the related movement disorders and neuromuscular involvement, others face years of therapies, medications, and possibly surgeries to manage and reduce the consequences of dystonic cerebral palsy. Some children may also be at increased risk for muscular and skeletal complications, such as contractures and scoliosis, due to poor torso control in addition to compromised oral motor function.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child’s Dystonic CP Was Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Cerebral palsy, in general, is caused by either abnormal brain development or injury to the brain during pregnancy or at birth. Although some cases of CP cannot be prevented, it is estimated that up to 20% of CP diagnoses occur due to negligence. This can happen for many reasons, whether a missed infection, a misdiagnosis of a medical condition that affected the baby’s brain, or other types of brain injury caused by malpractice.

If you believe your child’s dystonic CP was caused by a medical professional’s negligence, it’s important to seek legal help.

The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have consulted with over 30,000 families nationwide. Our legal and medical experience can help to uncover the truth and secure the compensation that families like yours deserve. If your child was the victim of medical malpractice, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs today for a free, no-obligation consultation.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

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