When someone you love has cerebral palsy (CP), it’s only normal to question whether this condition will affect his or her life span and, if so, how much.
To give you the most reliable answer possible, let’s look at what the research says.
Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy: The Research
Research published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology explains that the life expectancy for an individual with CP is often dependent on the level of severity of the disease.
The research indicates that, on average, individuals with CP who are able to walk unaided typically have the highest life expectancy rates. Then, as the level of severity increases and mobility and muscle control begin to decline, life expectancy tends to decline as well.
These researchers note that while there have been no real trends regarding life expectancy for individuals with cerebral palsy within the last few decades, some studies have also revealed that life expectancy is increasing for certain segments of CP patients. This is due largely to better care.
For instance, some studies have found that mortality levels have decreased by as much as 3.4 percent for CP patients who must be fed by others, and those fed via gastrostomy feeding, or a feeding tube.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke adds that individuals with CP also tend to prematurely age. This is due to the additional stress that CP places on their bodies, combined with developmental delays that have prevented some of their organs—such as their heart and lungs—to not reach their maximum capacity or optimal performance levels.
Additional Factors Affecting CP Life Expectancy
With the severity of the cerebral palsy having the most impact on life expectancy rate, this means that issues related to limited mobility, difficulty eating, respiratory problems, and impaired cognitive function can all potentially shorten the lifespan of someone who has been diagnosed with CP.
In an article published by the Child Neurology Foundation, Dr. Kenneth Swaiman, an internationally recognized child neurologist and Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, shares that the risk of death is the highest during the first five years of life in these types of severe cases.
But Swaiman also highlights additional factors that could impact lifespan for someone with CP. These include:
- Type of cerebral palsy
- Degree of developmental delay
- Pathologic reflexes
- Intellectual impairments
- Emotional issues
- Cognitive function
Swaiman goes on to say that the prognosis isn’t always as grim as one thinks.
“As mortality data have become available, it is now clear that with reasonable medical attention, a majority of affected persons will survive into adult life.”
Improving Life Expectancy and Quality of Life for Individuals with CP
When you are close to someone with CP, you likely want to do whatever you possibly can to only improve their life expectancy and enhance their quality of life.
The first step toward reaching these goals involves providing the individual with high quality care. Attend necessary doctor’s visits to ensure that the CP is being appropriately monitored. This step is critical because complications and other health issues can often arise with CP.
Improving life expectancy and quality of life for individuals with CP can also be accomplished by providing them with access to quality treatment remedies. Depending on the type of CP and its level of severity, this may include setting up physical therapy, occupational therapy, or recreation therapy appointments. It may also require administering prescriptions medications, or looking into surgical options.
No Clear-Cut Answers
There are no definite answers as to how long anyone will live, let alone someone who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Thus, the only thing you can do is take care of them as best as you possibly can, so they can live the happiest and highest quality of life possible.