Cerebral Palsy Prevalence

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder of childhood according to the Centers for Disease prevention and Control (CDC).

Cerebral palsy prevalence in United States

Population-based studies from around the world show that prevalence of cerebral palsy worldwide ranges from 1.5 to more than 4 per 1,000 live births or children of a defined age range.

In United States for example there were 142,338 8-year-old children in the population from Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This represented 4% of all 8 year olds. There were variations among prevalence according to state. For example, the prevalence rate was 2.9 per 1,000 8-year-olds in Wisconsin to 3.8 per 1,000 8-year-olds in Georgia. The mean or average prevalence of cerebral palsy across the four sites was approximately 3.3 per 1,000 or 1 in 303 8-year-old children in the United States. 

Racial variations and types of cerebral palsy

In the US cerebral palsy prevalence is found to be significantly lower among Hispanic children than among Black or White children. The prevalence among White and Black children varied across the sites.

Spastic cerebral palsy was the most common type of cerebral palsy that is found among 80% of all children with the condition. Boys are affected 1.2 times more commonly than girls.

Mobility and intellectual disability statistics

In a 2006 survey it was noted that 56% of children with cerebral palsy are able to walk independently, while 33% had limited or no walking ability. Yet another study showed that 41% of children with cerebral palsy had diminished ability to crawl, walk, run, or play and 31% needed special equipment such as walkers or wheelchairs for mobility.

From the studies it is seen that around 60% of the affected children have another developmental disability. Around 40% of children with cerebral palsy have intellectual disability, 35% have epilepsy and over 15% have problems with vision. Around fourth of all children with cerebral palsy have both intellectual disability and epilepsy.

Economic implications

Medical costs for children with cerebral palsy alone were 10 times higher than for children without cerebral palsy or intellectual disability ($16,721 vs. $1,674 in 2005 dollars).

According to the CDC, the lifetime estimates of costs to care for a child or person with cerebral palsy is nearly $1 million (2003 dollars). Total lifetime costs for all people with cerebral palsy born in 2000 including direct and indirect costs is $11.5 billion.

Cerebral palsy statistics from Europe

According to the Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE) the incidence in Europe is 2 per 1000 live births. The incidence is higher in males than in females with male to female ratio of 1.33:1.

The prevalence in Europe and Australia ranges from 35.0 to 79.5 per 1,000 live births for children born at 28 to 31 weeks gestation. The figures are 1.1 to 1.7 per 1,000 live births for children born at 37 or more weeks of pregnancy.

Of all children with cerebral palsy in the United Kingdom, 91% have spastic cerebral palsy. Nearly one third of children in addition have severely impaired lower limb function or leg function. Nearly a quarter of all individuals with cerebral palsy have severely impaired upper limb function.

There are variations depending on geographical location. The SCPE reported from data between 1980–1990 among 4,500 children over age 4 whose CP was acquired during the prenatal or neonatal period that 31% had an intellectual disability (IQ lower than 50), 21% had epilepsy and active seizures, 20% had IQ lower than 50 and were not walking and 11% had blindness.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Dec 11, 2012

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