Spastic diplegia is a form of cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a neurological condition that affects muscle control and coordination. Signs of CP appear in infancy or early childhood and remain for the entirety of a person’s life.
Those with spastic diplegia have increased muscle tone that creates spasticity, or tightness and stiffness in the legs. Other signs that can lead to a diagnosis of spastic diplegia include:
- Walking on the toes
- Delayed motor or movement milestones (sitting, standing, rolling over)
- “Scissored” style of walking
Though the exact cause of CP spastic diplegia is unknown, the condition occurs when the portion of the brain responsible for controlling movement is damaged or develops abnormally. Some research has shown spastic diplegia is associated with genetic abnormalities, maternal infections or fever, congenital brain malformations, and/or injury before, during, or shortly after birth.
Symptoms of Spastic Diplegia
Symptoms of spastic diplegia vary from one person to another. Muscle tone is always affected and most people with spastic diplegia will have stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes. Symptoms can change over time, but there is no evidence they worsen with age.
Spastic diplegia and all forms of CP might be linked to other health concerns, including:
- Delayed growth
- Hearing loss
- Impaired vision
- Intellectual disability
- Learning disabilities
- Poor bladder control
- Speech and language disorders
- Spinal abnormalities
What Causes Spastic Diplegia?
Spastic diplegia is caused by malformation of the brain, but there is no official specific cause of the condition or way to determine its severity. In most cases, the root cause occurs before birth, but it’s possible that an event during birth can trigger spastic diplegia and other forms of CP. Anything that occurs before the age of two when the brain is still experiencing crucial development can also be a factor.
A number of conditions increase the odds a child might develop spastic diplegia:
- Breech presentation
- Complicated labor and delivery
- Infections or high fever during pregnancy
- Low Apgar score
- Low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds)
- Mothers with thyroid abnormalities, intellectual disability, excess protein in the urine, or seizures
- Multiple births (twins, triplets and other multiples)
- Premature birth
- Rh incompatibility between mother and child
Research has shown a link between spastic diplegia and other forms of CP and genetics. Babies born to families in which there is already someone with cerebral palsy have a higher risk of developing the condition. If the family member with CP is a sibling or parent, the risk is six to nine time greater. Inheritance of spastic diplegia is believed to be multifactorial and environmental factors likely play a role, as well.
Treatment can help someone with CP adjust to life and live independently, as long as symptoms are not too severe. It’s possible for someone with spastic diplegia to be highly functional, but there are also those with the condition that require lifetime support and medical care. CP can also effect other functions in addition to muscle tone and movement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many people who suffer from some form of cerebral palsy also deal with vision and hearing impairments, scoliosis, and intellectual disabilities.
Spastic diplegia is considered a milder form of CP, and for most, appropriate treatment is enough to guarantee a full life of independent living.
The goal of spastic diplegia treatment is to increase joint range of motion by decreasing rigidity or spasticity. There are several treatment options used to reduce symptoms, including therapy or rehabilitation, tendon transfer surgery, and selective posterior rhizotomy. There is also a variety of pharmaceutical interventions. Treatment plans are different for each patient, based on his or her symptoms and severity of those symptoms, and treatment can change over time as the condition evolves.
Legal Support for People with Spastic Diplegia
In many cases, legal action will be an option after an individual develops spastic diplegia. If an incident occurs during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or early in a child’s life, negligence could be a factor and the affected individual would be entitled to compensation.
According to a 2003 report by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about 70 percent of cases result from events occurring before birth that can disrupt normal development of the brain, but lack of oxygen reaching the baby during labor and delivery contributes to a small minority of cases of cerebral palsy.
We want parents to understand legal action might be necessary to ensure a child receives the compensation he or she deserves as the result of negligence that resulted in spastic diplegia or other forms of CP.