DOI: 10.1542/neo.25-1-e1 ISSN: 1526-9906

A Call for Early Detection of Cerebral Palsy

Faith Kim, Nathalie Maitre,
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health


Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability across the lifespan, but historically, CP has not been diagnosed before the age of 2 years. Barriers to early diagnosis ranged from lack of available biomarkers, absence of curative treatments, perceived stigma associated with a lifelong diagnosis, and a desire to rule out other diagnoses first. Most importantly, the fundamental question that remained was whether children would benefit from earlier detection and intervention given the paucity of research. However, evidence-based guidelines published in 2017 demonstrated that the General Movements Assessment, the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination, and neuroimaging can be combined with other elements such as a clinical history and standardized motor assessments to provide the highest predictive value for diagnosing CP as early as age 3 months in high-risk newborns. Implementation of these guidelines has been successful in decreasing the age at CP diagnosis, particularly in high-risk infant follow-up clinics with expertise in performing these assessments. Early detection of CP allows for clinical and research opportunities investigating earlier interventions during a critical period of neuroplasticity, with the goal of improving developmental trajectories for children and their families. New guidelines and research are now being developed with a focus on early, targeted interventions that continue to be studied, along with global detection initiatives.

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