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What is Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements that worsen when you attempt to control them. Like other types of cerebral palsy, dyskinetic CP may be caused by an avoidable brain injury before, during, or after birth. A birth injury lawyer may be able to help you file a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek damages for your child’s injuries and suffering.

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Cerebral palsy (cerebral palsy) is a group of neurological disorders that affect a person’s coordination, movement, and posture. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy, also known as athetoid cerebral palsy, is characterized by involuntary movements that worsen when you try to control them. The more the patient attempts to control the movement, the worse it gets.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a non-progressive, lifelong condition. The condition may be caused by abnormal brain development or by a brain injury that’s sustained in utero, during birth, or shortly thereafter. The quality of life for a child diagnosed with can be significantly impaired. Birth injuries are, many times, the result of medical negligence. 

If your child has been diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy, contact Levin & Perconti to learn about your legal rights and options.

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Prevalence of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy in Children

According to the CDC, cerebral palsy affects 1 out of every 345 children in the United States.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is the second-most common type of CP, accounting for between 12 and 14 percent of all cerebral palsy cases.

Research shows that the prevalence of dyskinetic cerebral palsy is about .16 per 1,000 live births. Based on birth statistics, roughly 585,486 children may have been born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy in 2021.

Common Symptoms of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Early warning signs and symptoms of dyskinetic cerebral palsy

  • Abrupt, irregular movements (chorea)
  • Slow, writhing movements of the fingers, hands, toes, and feet (athetosis)
  • Repetitive twisting and turning movements that appear to be painful (dystonia)
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty making specific motions or movements
  • Spastic movements

Symptoms of dyskinetic cerebral palsy are generally apparent in a child’s first two years of life.

If your child displays symptoms that may indicate cerebral palsy, a doctor will perform a thorough neurological exam, evaluating factors such as your child’s muscle tone, growth patterns, reflexes, and overall movement.

To make a formal clinical diagnosis of dyskinetic cerebral palsy, doctors may use several tests, including:

  • MRI, which creates an image using magnetic fields
  • CT Scan, which creates an image using X-rays
  • Ultrasound, which creates an image using sound waves
  • EEG (electroencephalography), which measures the electrical signals produced by the brain
  • EMG (electromyography), which measures the electrical signals produced by the muscles
  • Vision, hearing, and speech evaluations
A formal diagnosis can help parents understand what treatments can be used to help their children manage their condition as they grow.

Common Causes of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is generally a result of a brain injury before birth, during birth, or shortly after delivery. 

Brain damage can be a result of:

  • Infections
  • Stroke
  • Premature birth
  • Toxic exposure
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Limited blood flow to the brain
  • Forcible removal from the uterus using forceps or a vacuum
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Untreated jaundice
  • Genetic disorders
  • Failure to monitor before, during, or after birth
  • Other acts of medical negligence

Children born in multiple births (twins or more) or those with a low birth weight tend to be more susceptible to brain injuries and CP than others.

Specifically, dyskinetic cerebral palsy can occur when an area in the brain called the basal ganglia becomes damaged during birth.

The basal ganglia is a group of structures in the brain that’s primarily responsible for motor control and coordination. When the basal ganglia is injured during birth, this may lead to symptoms like involuntary movements, tremors, difficulty talking, and abnormal body posture.

Are There Complications Associated With Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder, which means that it won’t worsen over time. However, as children grow, the disorder’s impact can become more pronounced and may have a considerable effect on their lives.

Complications that may be associated with dyskinetic cerebral palsy include:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Neurobehavioral disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Being severely underweight
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Musculoskeletal deformities
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression

Often, many of these complications can be managed using medications, medical devices, and therapies.

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77-year-old woman whose right leg was amputated above the knee when she was struck by a bus while walking across a bus terminal.

What’s the Prognosis for Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Research suggests that children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy typically live into adulthood. However, as with all forms of cerebral palsy, children with dyskinetic CP generally have a reduced life expectancy compared to those who don’t have the disorder.

Of course, each child’s situation is unique. Life expectancy and prognosis will ultimately depend on how badly the child’s brain is damaged and what complications develop.

Children with a mild form of dyskinetic CP may live relatively normal lives. However, children with more severe cases are more likely to suffer from complications and tend to have poorer prognoses.

How is Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy Treated?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a permanent and irreversible disorder with no known cure. While children with this condition will have it for life, there are several treatment options that can help them manage their involuntary movements, symptoms, and related complications.

Since the root of the issue is irreversible brain damage, these treatments are solely intended to improve a child’s quality of life.

  • Medication, including ​​oral baclofen and trihexyphenidyl, to manage pain, muscle spasms, and muscle stiffness
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscle tone
  • Occupational therapy to improve motor skills
  • Speech therapy to improve language skills
  • Nutrition plans to ensure adequate growth
  • Medical devices and equipment, including walkers, wheelchairs, and leg braces to improve posture and control spastic movements
  • Surgery to improve movement in specific parts of the body, particularly in the arms and legs
  • Distraction therapy to draw a child’s attention away from the involuntary movement 

New research suggests that a technique called deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted into the basal ganglia in order to stimulate them, may positively impact children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. However, additional data is needed to determine the long-term benefits and risks of this form of treatment.

Resources for Parents of Children with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Having a child with dyskinetic cerebral palsy can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there are many resources available for parents and caretakers.

Parents may be able to find helpful information, learn about current research, and connect with other families with children who have dyskinetic cerebral palsy using these resources: 

Social media has become a popular place for parents and families with children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy to connect and share information. Consider searching for groups on Facebook or other platforms — local, nationally, and even worldwide. Help and support are out there — you do not have to struggle with your child’s dyskinetic CP diagnosis on your own.

How Can Levin & Perconti Help Me if My Child is Diagnosed With Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy may be the result of an avoidable birth injury. Trauma to a newborn’s brain can be catastrophic and fundamentally change the course of the child’s life forever. Negligent healthcare professionals — including your OBGYN, surgeons, nurses, and other providers — must be held accountable for the irreversible consequences of their mistakes. 

Levin & Perconti can help you file a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek compensation for the costs of your child’s medical treatment, disability, reduced quality of life, and other damages. 

Contact our birth injury attorneys to arrange a time for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Our team would be happy to review the circumstances of your case, consider available evidence, and provide some preliminary guidance and advice about a potential birth injury case.