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What Is Spastic Quadriplegia?

Spastic quadriplegia is a form of cerebral palsy characterized by the loss of motor control in all four limbs and the entire body. It’s the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy. Normally caused by brain damage that occurs before birth, during birth, or shortly afterward, it severely limits the affected person’s quality of life.

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While spastic quadriplegia is generally non-progressive, additional developmental disorders associated with the disease may occur over time. Treatment for spastic quadriplegia is determined on an individual basis and in accordance with the child’s symptoms.

If your child is suffering from spastic quadriplegia due to a birth injury, contact a Cerebral Palsy lawyer at Levin & Perconti to inquire about legal services.

Prevalence of Spastic Quadriplegia in Children

The occurrence of spastic quadriplegia in children is generally between 2 and 3 per 1,000 live births. The condition is found more often in babies who are born before term or at a low birth weight. Diagnosis most often occurs before the age of two.

Common Symptoms of Spastic Quadriplegia

Symptoms of spastic quadriplegia typically become apparent between three months and two years old. They may include the following:

  • Muscles that rapidly contract and release; slack muscle tone
  • Joints that cannot stretch or move
  • Muscle tremors, muscle stiffness, or muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Scissoring of limbs
  • Speech or language disorders
  • Seizures
  • Intellectual disabilities or developing brain disorders
  • Partial dislocation of the hips
  • Severe hyperextension (“bridging” or “arching”) in the head, neck, and spinal cord
  • Risk of aspiration
  • Brain injury

Parents and doctors should pay attention to young children to observe if any of these symptoms are present.

Common Causes of Spastic Quadriplegia

Spastic quadriplegia is caused by brain damage that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth. Brain damage may be caused by any of the following:

  • Decreased oxygen and blood flow to the baby
  • Traumatic injuries during the birthing process
  • Fetal infections or stroke
  • Premature birth
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Other medical negligence

Fetal strokes can occur from placental blood clots. High blood pressure experienced by the mother places the infant at an increased risk of stroke. Doctors should monitor mothers regularly to ensure that any health problems that arise during the pregnancy are carefully monitored and resolved, if possible.

Are There Complications Associated With Spastic Quadriplegia?

There are a number of complications associated with spastic quadriplegia, including:

Increased Risk of Limb Deformities

Due to the consistent pulling of the bones and joints encountered by a child with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, there’s a high risk of limb deformities. These deformities can present as legs and arms that are different in size or shape. For example, one leg may be longer than the other, or an arm may curve in an unnatural position.


Approximately 25% of children with spastic quadriplegia go on to develop scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can cause a person to appear as if they’re leaning to one side. Severe scoliosis can reduce the amount of space in the chest, making it difficult to breathe.


Some children with spastic quadriplegia may have severe difficulty swallowing. This can lead to malnutrition or respiratory conditions.

Speech and Language Difficulties

As spastic quadriplegia is primarily a neurological disorder caused by brain damage, there may be the potential for speech and language difficulties. This is especially true if the child has difficulty controlling their facial muscles. Speech therapy can be helpful in assisting with language difficulties.


Since damage has occurred to the brain, seizures may occur. Seizures can vary in type according to the brain damage incurred. Cognitive disabilities may also be apparent, such as a delayed aptitude for learning or a cognitive deficit.

Constipation and Incontinence

Since the individual may not have control over their body, they’re more likely to suffer from constipation and incontinence. These conditions can result in unpreventable accidents.

Diagnosing Spastic Quadriplegia in Children

A doctor specializing in cerebral palsy may diagnose a child with spastic quadriplegia upon performing several tests.

For children under six months of age who appear to have symptoms of the disorder, the following assessments can provide confirmation:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (86–89% sensitivity)
  • Prechtl General Movement Assessment (98% sensitivity)
  • Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (90% sensitivity)

For children over six months of age who appear to be at risk of spastic quadriplegia, the following evaluations are helpful to make a diagnosis:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (86–89% sensitivity)
  • Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination (90% sensitivity)
  • Developmental Assessment of Young Children (83% sensitivity)

If a full diagnosis cannot be made but existing factors point toward spastic quadriplegia, the child’s doctor may indicate that there’s a high risk and that the child should be closely monitored throughout early childhood.

Spastic Quadriplegia Management

Management of spastic quadriplegia can be highly involved and costly, especially if the disorder is severe. Treatment options include:

Aids and Assistive Devices

Specific aids to assist with movement and protect against limb deformity may be required. These assistive devices include wheelchairs, splints, and pronators.


Special exercises designed for muscle strengthening and stretching should be completed regularly. Physical therapists can observe the child and create specific exercises that may be performed at home with assistance from a caregiver.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is especially important, as children with spastic quadriplegia often have difficulties performing various functions with their hands. An occupational therapist can work to develop exercises to ensure proper hand control. The goal of occupational therapy is to improve fine motor skills.

Special Education

Some children may require special education, especially if they’ve suffered brain damage. Others may face only movement disorders and may be able to attend regular courses.

Oral Medication

When children with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy suffer from seizures, spasticity, drooling, or poor immunity, medications may be required. Medicine can help reduce how frequently these symptoms occur.


If a child has developed severe scoliosis, surgery may be required to assist with hip containment and realignment of the spine.

Current Spastic Quadriplegia Research

Research designed to improve recovery from spastic quadriplegia is ongoing. A recent study found significant improvement among young children who were exposed to physical therapy five times a week over a three-week period. Physical therapy has been found to provide significant benefits to CP patients.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke continues to support regular research on cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.

Resources for Parents of Children with Spastic Quadriplegia

A few links to agencies devoted to cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia are listed below:

If your child suffers from spastic quadriplegia, it’s important to remain informed of available treatments, information, and support groups.

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

If your child was born with a disorder such as spastic quadriplegia as a result of a birth injury or medical negligence, it’s important that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney immediately. Our attorneys can answer any questions you may have about the cerebral palsy statute of limitations or other deadlines, requirements, and restrictions and advise you whether your case is still timely.

birth injury attorney can review the facts of your case and give you practical advice. In some cases, it may be possible to obtain compensation for physical, emotional, and financial damages. 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.