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Current time:0:00Total duration:10:09

Video transcript

so in this video we're gonna talk about how we go about diagnosing cerebral palsy and let's just quickly remind ourselves about what cerebral palsy is so when we say cerebral palsy what we're talking about are a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move properly and these movement impairments they occur because some parts of the brain that control our movements have been damaged or impaired in some way maybe by an infection or lack of oxygen that occurred during really critical periods of development like during pregnancy or the actual birth process or shortly after birth within the first few years of life so let's say that this little boy here is a couple months old let let's say he's nine months old and he's come in for a routine checkup so we ask his parents how everything seems to be going and they expressed some concern about his motor development he doesn't really seem to be able to roll over onto his side while he's lying down and he doesn't seem to be able to sit upright without support without mom or dad holding on to him and he also doesn't really seem to be able to grasp his toys very well so each of these developmental milestones rolling over sitting without support and grasping objects these are motor skills that a kid should develop around a particular known age so at nine months old our kid here should be able to do all of these things so the fact that he hasn't reached these developmental milestones yet well this suggests to us that his motor development is delayed for some reason and it turns out that this sort of scenario where it's the parents that first noticed that their child isn't meeting some key motor milestones and then bring it up a doctor's visit well this is often how cerebral palsy is first clued in on now unfortunately we don't really have a specific test that we can use to definitively diagnose cerebral palsy so instead to diagnose cerebral palsy we have to rely on asking the parents questions about the child's movements do some physical exams on the child and do some imaging of the child's brain often an MRI or an ultrasound because they allow us to see any potential areas of damage the best so let's do that so once we have double-checked that our child here indeed isn't rolling over or sitting up or grasping objects like you should be doing at his age it's then really important that we check with his parents to see if he was ever able to do these things so in other words we want to find out if our kids lost these motor skills or if he just never developed them in the first place and the reason that's so important to know is because cerebral palsy is not a progressive disorder it does not worsen over time so we wouldn't expect for someone with cerebral palsy to lose skills that they had already acquired so it's really important that we confirm that our boy here never developed these motor skills before we can continue to consider cerebral palsy as a possible explanation for his delays in motor development and that point is so important let me write it down in the corner here cerebral palsy is not progressive now you might remember that there are actually quite a few things that can cause cerebral palsy let's actually bring up this little timeline here that shows us some examples of things that can happen during these critical periods of development so these are just some examples but that's quite a few different possible causes of cerebral palsy right so one thing that we'll want to do is check to see if mom or our kid here experienced any of these events during pregnancy birth or shortly after birth did mom have one of these infections while she was pregnant was our kid here born prematurely or maybe did he have an infection like bacterial meningitis just after he was born we know that these sorts of events can cause cerebral palsy so we'd want to find out if any of them had occurred to make us more or maybe less suspicious of cerebral palsy so let's say that we find out that our kid here actually was born prematurely well arbitrarily say that he was born at 31 weeks instead of at 40 week gestation like normal so since prematurity increases the chance of a baby developing cerebral palsy we're definitely going to consider cerebral palsy as one of the possible explanations for our kids delayed motor development but we also know that not all kids who were born prematurely have cerebral palsy so we can't be too certain just yet we'll need to look for some more signs of cerebral palsy before we can figure out if it's the right diagnosis so if we wanted to look for more signs of cerebral palsy what could we look for well you might remember that while there are a few different types of cerebral palsy the most common type is [ __ ] cerebral palsy and one of the main things that we see in someone with [ __ ] cerebral palsy is really stiff muscles and this stiffness comes about because of increased muscle tone so one thing that we can do to check to see if our kids muscles are really stiff is we can push and pull on his arms and his legs to see if we feel more resistance than normal imagine if you are trying to pull down on your friends arm while they were flexing their big bicep muscles well this would make it harder for you to move their arm right their arm would feel kind of stiff and you would feel more resistance than you would if your friend just relax their muscles well this is kind of what it feels like when you try to move the affected muscles in someone with [ __ ] cerebral palsy it's kind of like the muscles are permanently on and resisting your efforts to move them so on our boy here we can move his arms and his legs and see if we feel any of that extra resistance that would indicate stiffness from increased muscle tone now you might also remember that for someone with another type of cerebral palsy dyskinetic cerebral palsy the muscle tone can actually fluctuate so sometimes the muscle tone ends up being really high and the muscles end up being really stiff like what we're looking for here but at other times the muscle tone can actually be really low and the muscles can actually feel really floppy so if we were doing this muscle tone examination here and notice that the muscles are actually really floppy instead of stiff we might consider dyskinetic cerebral palsy as a possible cause of our kids delayed motor development but because dyskinetic cerebral palsy isn't nearly as common as [ __ ] cerebral palsy and because there are quite a few other causes of decreased muscle tone or floppy muscles like muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome or certain infections we would likely want to rule out some of these other possible causes first before we set our sights on a diagnosis of cerebral palsy so while we're here doing some physical exams there's actually something else we can check for so when a baby is born it turns out that they actually have these reflex that actually disappear they go away at some point during development so for example you know how if you put your finger on a baby's palm they wrap their little fingers and thumb really tightly around your finger when they feel it well this is actually a reflex that the baby develops in the uterus and they are actually supposed to lose this particular reflex when they're about six months old so this is an example of what we call primitive reflexes reflex is that a baby is supposed to lose at a certain point in development and the interesting thing is as the baby's brain continues to develop after birth these reflexes get replaced by the baby's new voluntary motor skills so what's interesting is that when the movement centers in the brain are damaged or impaired like they are in cerebral palsy sometimes some of these primitive reflexes either don't develop at all or sometimes they actually stick around longer than they're supposed to because the motor impairments are preventing voluntary motor skills from replacing the primitive reflexes so what we can actually do when we're looking for signs of a cerebral palsy is we can take a look to see if our kid here is maybe missing the primitive reflexes that he's supposed to have for someone his age and we can also check to see if he still has any primitive reflexes that he should have lost by now both of these would suggest to us that something is going on in the movement centers of his brain and both can be signs of cerebral palsy now at this point we're considering cerebral palsy as the possible diagnosis for our kids delays in motor development so our next step would be to take a look at his brain usually using an MRI or an ultrasound to see if we can find a lesion a bit of damage that is consistent with cerebral palsy and we'll look at an example in a sec here but if we find a lesion this can help us confirm our cerebral palsy diagnosis and what's more it also might be able to help us figure out exactly what went wrong when the event took place and how bad the damages which can help us figure out what sort of long-term consequences our child might end up with so let's look at an example of what we might find so with our kid he was born prematurely and is showing signs of cerebral palsy so our concerns is that he has what's called periventricular leukomalacia which is damage to the white matter around the ventricles and a cause of cerebral palsy it doesn't have to be this there are other causes too but let's use periventricular leukomalacia as our example so let's pull up an example here of an MRI that shows a brain with periventricular leukomalacia so even if we did find a lesion like we're seeing here when we looked at the brain and we were really confident with our diagnosis of cerebral palsy we'd still need to have our kid come back regularly for follow-up visits while he's growing up because again even though the damage resulting in cerebral palsy is not progressive new motor limitations might crop up as he develops and his brain is challenged in new ways things might seem one way now but what about when he wants to start running up stairs or climbing trees so this is another reason why it can be really difficult to figure out which particular type of cerebral palsy a kid has at a young age like this so will likely need to keep seeing him over the next few months or maybe years before we can start to see more of a pattern to his movement abilities and limitations and that way we can make a more precise diagnosis