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Decrease in Cerebral Palsy suggests improvements in perinatal care

A new study to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics concludes that a decrease in the percentage of infants diagnosed with cerebral palsy indicates that the level of care that infants receive after, during and prior to birth has improved over the last 15 years.

As you may know, cerebral palsy (CP) is the name for a variety of developmental motor conditions that occurs most often in infants that are born prematurely and can result from a brain injury during pregnancy, childbirth or shortly thereafter. The researchers reasoned that because CP is strongly related to the quality of the medical care an infant receives, that a decrease is evidence that the level of care is improving.

The researchers looked at the percentage of premature infants diagnosed with CP between 1990 and 2005. They compared how many were diagnosed at the beginning of that 15 year period to the percentage diagnosed at the end of that time. Among infants born prematurely during the years from 1990 to 1993, 6.5% were diagnosed with CP. For the three years ending in 2005, that percentage had dropped to 2.2%.

The study also found that those were diagnosed with CP in the later period had less severe symptoms as those diagnosed earlier.

While this study may not provide comfort to those with an infant that has been diagnosed despite the falling numbers, it is encouraging that this study suggests that perinatal care has improved significantly in the last 15 years. We can only hope that perinatal care continues to improve and that all conditions associated with improper medical care for infants can be reduced.

Source: Journal of Pediatrics "Decreasing Incidence and Severity of Cerebral Palsy in Prematurely Born Children" March 2011

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