Diagnosing Early: Why it’s Important?

Early Diagnosis

“Cerebral palsy describes the most common physical disability in childhood and occurs in 1 in 500 live births. Historically, the diagnosis has been made between age 12 and 24 months but now can be made before 6 months’ corrected age.”*

Recently, a systemic review came out published in JAMA Pediatrics (medical review journal) that studied the best medical evidence for diagnosing early and accurately for Cerebral Palsy (CP) and what should follow. To make this simple….they concluded that in infants, clinical signs and symptoms of CP emerge before 2 years of age. Therefore if medical professionals use reliable tools to predict risk with clinical history, they can have a better chance at diagnosing at an earlier age. By ‘tools’ I do not mean physically…it is referred to as an assessment that clinicians use that is shown to be accurate i.e. testing gross motor skills via Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination. They found that before 5 months old, MRIs as well as other assessment testing can be extremely helpful in assisting with clinical decisions.

Fancy Science Lingo Aside, Why Is This So Important?

The human brain is quite amazing. The younger it is, the more neuroplasticity there is. This term has been mentioned before in other posts, but for review…neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change physiologically; the ability to learn new things and make new connections. So, for an injured brain such as someone with Cerebral Palsy, the sooner it is known that there is a neurological issue occurring, the earlier you can seek out further medical advice and therapies to assist your child. Now that clinicians can be more aware of the best assessment tools for risk and diagnosis, the more opportunities and options you have moving forward about making decisions for your child.

I am a firm believer as a clinician that diagnosis is NOT everything. Just because a child diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy typically presents one way, it does not mean everyone with that diagnosis presents that way…. however, it DOES mean that if your child is diagnosed early, they can seek treatment earlier and possibly receive care in ways parents may not have even thought about if they were just “developmentally delayed” or without a diagnosis.

Questions? Email: christine@breakthroughptli.com

Christine Astarita