Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy

For an accurate diagnosis of cerebral palsy a complete neurological exam is essential. In older patients, cognitive functioning tests may also be added to the host of other tests for cerebral palsy. There is no one medical test that can diagnose cerebral palsy. Instead the following tests results are combined to reach a conclusion:

  • Blood and urine tests to check for chemical and hormonal imbalances and metabolic problems
  • DNA testing to check for genetic defects
  • Hearing tests
  • Vision tests
  • MRI of the head
  • CT scan of the brain
  • Ultrasound of the brain (mostly used on newborns who cannot withstand the invasive procedures of an MRI or CT scan)
  • EEG or electroencephalogram to check for seizure disorders
  • MRI of the spinal cord
  • Electromyography (EMG) to determine whether symptoms are being caused by cerebral palsy or any other muscle disorder
  • Nerve conduction studies (NCS) to rule out any nerve disorders
If you suspect your child may have cerebral palsy, he will require an evaluation along with a comprehensive medical interview to gather all the pertinent information and confirm the diagnosis. The medical interview will require detailed information about the medical history of both parents and their families along with any problems during the pregnancy. Reports of the pregnancy, labor, and delivery will be studied along with all the relevant neonatal charts. Questions concerning the child’s developmental issues and problems will be discussed during the interview and it is essential that both partners are honest and accurate with their answers.

Most doctors are hesitant to slap on the label of cerebral palsy immediately. Several other broader terms may be used - such as developmental delay, central nervous system dysfunction and motor disability. The delay in diagnosis occurs because there is a chance that the brain damage causing the symptoms may repair itself.

Children have a greater capacity to recover and heal from injuries than adults and over time the symptoms may fade away. In addition to this, the nervous system of children is constantly being reorganized and it may take some time to settle down and stabilize. During this time motor skills and abilities may fluctuate. Keeping all this in mind, there are a few doctors who will make an immediate diagnosis of cerebral palsy and as your child grows, constant testing and reassessments will be required before reaching any definite conclusion.