Cerebral Palsy (CP)

If your child has cerebral palsy, it’s important to get treatment from experts who work collaboratively to address the various ways the condition can affect your child’s life. Whether your child is already diagnosed or cerebral palsy is suspected, Duke Children’s team of specialists provides care that’s customized for your child.

About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. It is usually caused by a brain injury that occurs before or during a child's birth or in their early developmental period. CP often causes spasticity, or muscle stiffness that’s sometimes accompanied by jerky movement, and can affect a child’s arms, legs, and face. Children with CP also can have associated hearing, vision, and cognitive impairments and seizures.

If Your Child Has -- or May Have -- CP

The first step is a thorough evaluation. Our doctors will perform a physical exam, learn about your child’s health history, and review MRI images of the brain and, in some cases, the spine. The doctor may also order blood tests or other diagnostic tests to identify possible causes of your child’s symptoms. Our doctors also will evaluate your child for conditions that occur with CP, such as seizures, scoliosis, contractures, reflux, and sleep problems.

Comprehensive Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

We understand the impact that living with cerebral palsy can have on your child and your family. Our team of specialists offers comprehensive care that’s tailored to your child’s unique physical, developmental, emotional, and academic needs.

  • At our Neurodevelopmental Disorders Clinic, your child can be seen by several specialists in a single day, as needed. Our goal is to keep your medical visits to a minimum and to enable your child’s caregivers to share information and coordinate treatment. 
  • A neurodevelopmental neurologist will evaluate the ways cerebral palsy affects your child and recommend appropriate treatment. This includes assessing your child’s muscle tone, movement, and motor skills, as well as speech and language abilities, attention, and social and academic participation. 
  • Our pediatric orthopaedic surgeons screen for and treat musculoskeletal complications that can occur with cerebral palsy, including spinal curvature and hip problems.
  • Our physical therapists evaluate your child and recommend exercises to help with pain or movement difficulties; they also will evaluate for adaptive equipment needs
  • Your child may also be seen by an occupational therapist, who can help with day-to-day tasks and participation in school.
  • When necessary, we’ll refer your child to other specialists within our health system, such as a speech-language pathologist, dietitian, gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist, audiologist, social worker, or orthotics specialist. 
  • Our nurse clinic coordinator can answer your questions and guide you through the process of starting evaluation and treatment. If you are traveling from outside the Triangle area, the nurse coordinator can help ensure your child’s local doctors have the information they need to provide follow-up care.
  • As an academic medical center, Duke is committed to staying abreast of and bringing to our patients the latest advances in care. For example, our experts have been involved in studying the potential of cord blood transfusions to treat children with cerebral palsy. 
Reviewed: 02/18/2018


Reviewed: 02/18/2018
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