How is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed

The First Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

The term diagnosis comes from two greek words: dia, meaning across and gnosis, meaning to know. Greeks defined the word as understanding or learning what is happening across a subject or object. More easily defined, diagnosis means to detect, learn or identify the nature of a problem.

When a child has cerebral palsy, a parent usually makes the first diagnosis of the disorder. They detect their child is abnormally floppy or rigid. They identify differences in their child from other children. Parents learn about developmental milestones their children should be achieving and recognize a delay in doing so. 

Why Aren’t Babies Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy When They Are Born?

Cerebral Palsy is difficult to diagnose at birth. Since it’s not a genetic disease there is no way to check a baby’s blood to see if they are carriers. Cerebral Palsy is a term describing a group of disorders caused by brain damage. Brain damage is almost undetectable in newborns unless it’s severe. Symptoms in infants such as abnormal floppiness or rigidity can lead a doctor to diagnose cerebral palsy. However, these symptoms aren’t usually present at birth.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Cerebral Palsy?

Doctors are usually alerted by concerned parents about suspected problems. The doctor will ask detailed questions about pre-natal care, problems with pregnancy, a mother’s heath while pregnancy, pre-maturity and the heath of the child since birth. The doctor will perform a full physical exam. Once the doctor examines the child for general health issues, they begin tests to help determine potential disability. Since cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder, the symptoms a child initially displays will usually determine the severity they will endure for a lifetime.

Diagnosis by Reflex Testing

After speaking with parents about a child’s development, a doctor will check for excessive muscle tone and abnormal posture. The doctor also tests a child’s reflexes. Cerebral palsy children often retain some reflexes only known in infants under the age of 6 months. One of those reflexes is called the Moro Reflex. It occurs when a baby under six months old is held in its back with its feet raised above its head. The baby reflexively reaches up in an embracing gesture. The Moro reflex occurring after 6 months of age could indicate cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy and Hand Preference

Doctors often quiz mothers of babies with potential cerebral palsy about their child’s hand preference. Most children don’t have any left or right hand preference until they reach 12 months old. Babies with cerebral palsy often show hand preference as young as 6 months old. Spastic hemiplegia, one form of cerebral palsy, causes one side of the body to be stronger than the other. Early hand preference is often a symptom of that form of the disorder.

CT Scans EEG and MRI Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

CT is short for the words computed tomography, an x-ray imaging technique that uses computers to create a picture of the brain. Brain malformation, cysts and underdevelopment are usually visible on a CT scan. By studying CT scans, doctors can determine how severe a child might be brain damaged. The amount of brain damage helps determine how severely a child will be affected by the symptoms of cerebral palsy.

MRI is short for magnetic resonance imaging, a brain imaging technique using radio waves and magnetic fields to create a picture of the brain. MRIs can look closer to the bone for abnormalities than CT scans. Electroencephalogram, or EEG for short, records electrical currents in the brain with special patches attached to the scalp. It’s used to help detect seizure disorders and unusual electrical activity in the brain.

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What is Functional Magnetic

In Brain Imaging Scans As Being Different

Imaging the ADHD brain makes it possible for photographs of the brain to be taken and this enables neurologists and neuroscientists to see how the brain functions. Among the various types of brain imaging methods are CT scans (computerized tomography), MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging), PET scans (positron emission tomography), and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). A great many studies have been done making use of these aforementioned techniques when it comes to understand and learn about the brains of children who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

Having used the methods that we, IRM cerebral have already mentioned researchers have discovered that there are noticeable differences between the brains of children with ADHD and those of children who do not have ADHD. Most of the scans or imaging studies up to now have been done using CT and MRI scans but this is a static way of observing the brain. By using these and other methods researchers can now indicate that the region of the brain that is called the frontal cortex is actually involved when it comes to the brains of children with ADHD. This part of the brain is actually a part of the cerebral cortex otherwise known as the outer surface of the brain. This area is divided into the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, the parietal lobe and the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is mostly involved with functions like problem solving, attention, reasoning, and so on.

Functional imaging techniques like fMRI enable researchers to see the brain as it is working like a moving picture. These studies have shown a decrease in the metabolic activity of the frontal lobe as well as the region responsible for regulating movement, the basal ganglia. There are a growing number of researchers who now feel that the problems found in the circuit between the various regions of the frontal lobe are what cause the symptoms and behaviors we associate with ADHD.

Of course a lot has yet to be learned when it comes to the ADHD brain and the causes of ADHD in so many children. There appears to be a genetic component as very often a child that is diagnosed with this common disorder will have at least one or both parents with the disorder as well. It is not uncommon for a parent to discover that they have ADHD when their child is diagnosed with it. Unfortunately diagnosing ADHD in adults is not as easy as it is diagnosing it in children although even then the diagnostic process is a drawn-out and lengthy one. Before a diagnosis can be made the symptoms of the disorder need to have been noticeable from early on in the child’s life. More often than not the child will be diagnosed once they reach school-going age. Usually either the parent or teacher will suspect that the child has ADHD. The symptoms become easier to identify when the child is confronted with the added responsibilities and structure of school life.

The child also needs to exhibit the symptoms and behaviors common with ADHD in more than one environment which means that their symptoms must manifest both at school and at home. If the symptoms have not been present for an extended period (longer than six months) chances are good that there could be another explanation for the symptoms other than ADHD. The child will need to have a medical examination as there are medical issues that can account for ADHD-like symptoms. If no other cause is identified the child will be observed in various settings and reports from various professionals will be considered before the diagnosis is made. The diagnostic criteria are laid out by the American Psychiatric Association in their DSM-IV manual. Most children assessed with these criteria end up being diagnosed with the disorder. Thereafter medications are invariably prescribed unless the parents wish to pursue other alternative treatments.

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