Free Consultation · Call 24/7
Close this search box.

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 cerebral palsy may result from 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.

Quick Links

Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that affect a person’s coordination, movement, and posture. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is characterized by involuntary movements that worsen when you try to control them.

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 after delivery. It is most commonly associated with damage to the basal ganglia or thalamus. These structures are located in the center of each hemisphere of the brain and control bodily movements.

The quality of life for a child diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy can be significantly impaired. Birth injuries often result from medical negligence.

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

Prevalence of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy in Children

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy affects one out of every 345 children in the United States.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is the second-most common type of cerebral palsy, 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.

Types of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy has historically been referred to as athetoid cerebral palsy or basal ganglia cerebral palsy. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy has become the preferred term, with athetosis being used only to describe the specific type of movement pathology. The other subtypes are dystonic and choreoathetoid cerebral palsy.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

The types of movements observed in athetoid cerebral palsy are known as athetosis. Children with athetoid cerebral palsy experience slow, involuntary writhing movements of the extremities, such as the hands, fingers, and feet. These movements can range from large to small and may be jerky and repetitive. Children with athetoid cerebral palsy may appear to be restless.

Athetosis may also affect the muscles of the face and tongue, resulting in the following:

  • Difficulty swallowing, eating, and drinking
  • Speech problems
  • Trouble breathing
  • Uncontrolled facial expressions
  • Drooling

People with athetosis have trouble grasping or holding objects. They may be unable to write or hold silverware.

Unpredictable variations in muscle tone cause these movements. A child with athetoid cerebral palsy experiences flaccid muscle tone, known as hypotonia. This is followed by extreme, unpredictable movements, a condition known as hyperkinesias. Emotional stress, illness, and movement can aggravate athetosis.

Choreoathetoid Cerebral Palsy

Children with this type of cerebral palsy experience choreoathetosis—a combination of chorea and athetosis.

Chorea is a series of fast, irregular muscle contractions that may occur in the face, hands, feet, toes, and fingers. It manifests as sudden movements that occur at random. In mild cases, the child may simply appear to be clumsy. However, in severe cases, known as choreiform, these random movements can be large and even violent.

It is possible for multiple body parts to be affected, including the face and tongue, resulting in difficulties with speech and swallowing. Choreiform movements are typically less severe during sleep.

Dystonic Cerebral Palsy

Children with dystonic cerebral palsy experience dystonia, which is characterized by intermittent loss of muscle tone, involuntary twisting, repetitive movements, and involuntary postures. Dystonia can cause the following adverse effects, which can dramatically affect the child’s quality of life:

  • Lack of motor function
  • Difficulty sitting or lying down
  • Pain during involuntary movements and postures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Excessive metabolism resulting in malnutrition

Dystonia can occur in an isolated part of the body or throughout the body. It may be classified as follows:

  • Focal dystonia – Occurs in one part of the body or only during one particular task
  • Cervical dystonia – A type of focal dystonia causing the neck to twist or move in other uncomfortable ways
  • Hemidystonia – When dystonia impacts one arm and leg on the same side of the body
  • Generalized dystonia – Dystonia that affects multiple parts of the body, such as both legs and an arm or the trunk and a limb

Generalized dystonia may cause speech problems, difficulty eating and swallowing, and reduced mobility. Dystonia may be accompanied by athetosis, chorea, or both.

Early Warning Signs of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Children with dyskinetic cerebral palsy may exhibit the following early warning signs and symptoms:

  • 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 the following:

  • 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, which measures the electrical signals produced by the brain
  • EMG, 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 result from the following:

  • 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 or those with a low birth weight tend to be more susceptible to brain injuries and cerebral palsy than others.

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 considerably affect 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, or difficulty swallowing
  • Musculoskeletal deformities
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression

Many of these complications can often be managed using medications, medical devices, and therapies.

$10 million


5-year-old boy who was run over by a City of Chicago Fire Department truck while playing in an open fire hydrant on the Fourth of July, resulting in the loss of his leg and half of his pelvis.

$2.4 million


27-year-old man who suffered serious injuries when a Chicago City worker struck him and three others on a Gold Coast sidewalk in May 2011.

$1.25 million


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 Is the Prognosis for Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition. It is non-progressive because the brain injury does not worsen over time. However, the symptoms may affect your child differently as your child grows and enters adulthood, and symptoms may appear to worsen over time.

The life expectancy of people with cerebral palsy is often lower than the general population. According to a Swedish study of 1,856 people with cerebral palsy, people with dyskinetic cerebral palsy had a reduced life expectancy compared to the general population and other types of cerebral palsy, except spastic tetraplegia.

The most common cause of death among people with all cerebral palsy types was respiratory failure, which was the cause of death in 53 percent of cases studied. Factors that contributed to a lower life expectancy include the following:

  • Severe motor impairment
  • Severe cognitive impairments
  • Co-occurring epilepsy

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, several treatment options 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 deep brain stimulation, a technique in which electrodes are implanted into the basal ganglia 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. Help and support are out there—you do not have to struggle with your child’s dyskinetic cerebral palsy diagnosis on your own.

Legal FAQs in Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy Claims

Below are answers to common legal questions about dyskinetic cerebral palsy lawsuits.

Can Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy Be the Result of Medical Malpractice?

Medical negligence before, during, or shortly after birth can lead to the type of brain damage that causes dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Doctors, midwives, and other health care providers have a legal duty to provide a reasonable standard of care during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and immediately after.

Any deviation from medical standards during any of these times could lead to the type of brain damage that gives rise to dyskinetic cerebral palsy. This includes the following types of negligence:

These medical errors can lead to life-threatening conditions like hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and birth asphyxia. These conditions can damage the basal ganglia and lead to dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is more common in full-term infants, in contrast to spastic cerebral palsy, which occurs more often in infants born prematurely.

Who Is Liable for My Child’s Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Any health care provider that caused or contributed to your child’s injury may be held liable. This includes the following:

  • Obstetricians
  • Neonatalogists
  • Nurse midwives
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Labor and delivery nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Hospitals
  • Birthing centers
  • Pathologists

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your child is diagnosed. Every state imposes a statute of limitations, which limits the time you have to file a birth injury lawsuit. If you do not file your claim before this deadline expires, you will lose your right to pursue damages and hold the negligent health care providers accountable.

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 health care 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.