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What Is Spastic Hemiplegia?

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that negatively impacts the brain’s ability to coordinate movement with the rest of the body. One type of cerebral palsy is spastic hemiplegia, affecting only one side of the body, both above and below the waist. Usually the arm is more affected than the leg.

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Spastic hemiplegia is often caused by a traumatic brain injury that occurs prenatally or during the birth process. When the left side of the brain is injured, the child will experience limited mobility on the right side of the body and vice versa.

This condition can have debilitating long-term effects on a child’s mental and physical development. Treatment of spastic hemiplegia may require physical therapy, medication, and surgery.

If your child has been diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia, there’s a high likelihood that medical malpractice played a role. Contact Levin & Perconti to discuss the details of your child’s injury and learn if you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Treatment and care can be a lifelong financial burden after a traumatic brain injury at birth results in spastic hemiplegia. Pursuing legal action when a negligent health care provider is at fault can help reduce this burden.

Prevalence of Spastic Hemiplegia in Children

The CDC estimates that 1 in every 345 children in the U.S. has some form of cerebral palsy. The most common type is spastic cerebral palsy, affecting around 80% of cases. Spasticity refers to muscle stiffness and contraction, which usually makes movement awkward, difficult, or impossible.

Spastic hemiplegia is a type of cerebral palsy that occurs when the condition of muscle stiffness impacts one full side of the body. There’s no cure for spastic hemiplegia, but the condition can be managed and improved with the help of doctors, surgeons, and physical therapists.

Characteristics of Spastic Hemiplegia

Because spastic hemiplegia is usually the result of brain damage, the characteristics of the condition can be wide-ranging. The earliest sign that a child may have spastic hemiplegia is indicated by a failure to meet common developmental milestones, including:

  • Head control at two months
  • Rolling over at four months
  • Sitting up at six months
  • Walking at one year

These milestones are of particular concern when diagnosing spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy, as they indicate the child is experiencing issues with muscle plasticity that delay development.

Additional characteristics of the condition include:

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Lack of voluntary movements
  • Keeping hands in fists
  • Awkward hand movements
  • Asymmetrical motor control
  • Toe walking or scissor walking
  • Balance issues

What Causes Spastic Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy?

The majority of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, meaning they happen before or during birth. Often the cause is unknown, but many risk factors can contribute to the development of spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy, including:

These risk factors and others have been identified as contributing to or causing various forms of cerebral palsy, including spastic quadriplegia, spastic diplegia, and spastic hemiplegia.

Possible Complications of Spastic Hemiplegia

Limb deformities are a common complication of spastic hemiplegia. Some children develop equinus ankle or foot drop, conditions in which the foot muscles cannot flex properly. This can lead to difficulty with walking. Surgery, movement therapy, and assistive devices can all help to reduce pain and correct the deformity.

Additional complications and the percentage of incidence include:

  • Mental impairment or learning disability (40%)
  • Seizures (30%)
  • Complex movement disorders (20%)
  • Visual impairment (16%)
  • Malnutrition and related conditions (15%)
  • Hydrocephalus (14%)

In some severe cases, a child affected with spastic hemiplegia may never develop sufficient motor control to walk independently.

At What Age Are Children Diagnosed With Spastic Hemiplegia?

Children are most commonly diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia around four or five months of age. At this time, it becomes apparent that developmental milestones are not being met on schedule, and parents often begin seeking a medical explanation for their child’s noticeable delays.

However, spastic hemiplegia can range in severity. If a child’s muscle weakness or impaired motor function is less severe, it’s possible to fail to diagnose the condition until they’re closer to elementary school age, when it might be noticed through a symptom like scissor walking.

Treatment and Prognosis for Spastic Hemiplegia

There’s no known cure for spastic hemiplegia, but there are many treatment options that can greatly reduce symptoms and improve fine motor skills. Treatment prognosis will depend on many factors, especially the severity of the condition.

A treatment approach for spastic hemiplegia will be created by your child’s doctor to address the specific problems they experience. Successful treatment plans typically involve multiple types of intervention, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Orthotics
  • Nutrition
  • Social work
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics

An additional non-operative treatment option includes symptom management through medication. Common medications used to help with cerebral palsy effects include:

  • Diazepam
  • Baclofen
  • Dantrolene
  • Botulinum toxin (BTX-A)

Some patients benefit from surgical intervention. Surgery may be suggested by a physician in order to increase mobility or relieve severe spasticity.

Your child’s doctor may recommend surgery on the affected side of the body, targeting the hip, knee, or foot. In some cases, a physician may recommend a form of neurosurgical intervention called a selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Resources for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Spastic Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy

Caring for a child with spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy comes with a host of unique challenges. Many resources exist to provide support and help ensure your child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs are met.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal initiative that offers a host of resources to help children with cerebral palsy. After evaluation and assessment, you’ll receive assistance with creating an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

IDEA emphasizes early intervention services, and your child’s plan may involve aid with:

  • Assistive technology
  • Hearing, speech, and language services
  • Medical, nursing, and nutrition services
  • Occupational and physical therapy services
  • Psychological services
  • Family counseling and training

The goal of the initiative is to make services accessible and affordable for all people dealing with a type of CP or other serious condition. Some services are offered free of charge, while others are priced on a sliding-scale basis.

The following suggestions can help caregivers find assistance and support after a child is diagnosed with spastic CP:

  • Stay up-to-date on new healing modalities
  • Learn about new assistive technologies
  • Educate yourself on cerebral palsy
  • Connect with other CP caregivers

Organizations like The Cerebral Palsy Family NetworkUnited Cerebral Palsy, and The Cerebral Palsy Support Network offer a robust network for families and a wealth of resources for further education and support.

How Can Levin & Perconti Help Me if My Child Has Spastic Hemiplegia Due to a Birth Injury?

If your child has been diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia, there is a good chance that their condition is the result of a birth injury. A medical malpractice or personal injury lawsuit may result in compensation that can help offset the high medical costs incurred by a condition like spastic hemiplegia.

Levin & Perconti has an established track record of successfully gaining compensation after a birth injury results in cerebral palsy. The legal team at Levin & Perconti has successfully recovered millions of dollars in verdict and settlement money on behalf of clients.

Client testimonials and case results show the positive benefits clients can expect when working with the Levin & Perconti legal team. After a spastic hemiplegia diagnosis hits your family, an experienced birth injury lawyer can make a big difference to your financial well-being.

Contact Levin & Perconti today for a free consultation.

$6.5 Million


settlement for a young girl who suffered a brain injury during birth, resulting in cerebral palsy, after physicians failed to timely perform a c-section.

$4.5 Million


for a child who suffered brain damage causing cerebral palsy as a result of a family practice physician’s failure to perform a timely Caesarean section in the face of fetal distress.

$2.35 Million


for a child who suffered severe brain injury and cerebral palsy as the result of a uterine rupture in a vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) delivery that could have been avoided.