Research Suggests Malnutrition is Highly Prevalent in Children with Cerebral Palsy

A recent study by researchers in Turkey suggests that a majority of children with cerebral palsy (CP)are affected by malnutrition, mostly due to severe motor disability. The study concluded that better tools are needed to assess the nutritional status of these children.

The Study

The study surveyed 1,108 patients with CP between the ages of 1-18 (59.8% were males, 61% were younger than 8). The most common causes of CP in the children studied were asphyxia, a birth injury, (62.5%), low birth weight (45.6%), and premature birth (44.5%).

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

The most prevalent type of CP among the children studied was spastic cerebral palsy (87.5%), which is the most common form of the disorder worldwide.

The majority of the spastic cerebral palsy patients studied had the quadriplegic form of the disease (i.e. the most severe type), characterized by dysfunction in the legs and arms, and almost 50% were classified with the highest disability score in gross motor function (GMFCS V; GMFCS 5).

The most frequent concomitant disorders included intellectual disability, speech difficulties, epilepsy, and gastrointestinal (GI) issues (including constipation, difficultly swallowing, lack of appetite).

Factors Leading to Malnutrition

The high frequency of GI issues discovered suggested difficulties with eating, risk of aspiration (including the inhalation of vomit, mucus, or blood), prolonged meal times, and reduced nutrient intake. All of these factors can lead to malnutrition.

Some Conclusions on Malnutrition

Researchers also found that malnutrition was common among children with CP, but varied greatly depending on what assessment method was used.

For instance, using physician’s conclusions, the study found that 57.2% of the children were considered malnourished. However, assessments based on standard growth charts including the Gomez classification (weight for age) and the Waterlow classification (height for age) suggested that 90% of the children studied had malnutrition, and 80% of children studied had severe malnutrition.

The discrepancy between the conclusions the physicians made, and the conclusions made on the basis of growth charts was likely linked to growth impairments observed in children with CP, which could affect scores based on the measures of non-malnourished children.

Based on the discrepancies, researchers flagged the risk of overestimating malnutrition where assessments of children with CP are based on standard growth charts. They further suggested the need to use tools that are better adapted to the characteristics of children with CP.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help Parents of Children with Cerebral Palsy?

A very common misconception held by parents of children with CP is that the disorder is inevitable or genetic.

In fact, in a very large proportion of cases, CP is caused by a specific brain injury, which often takes place during birth.

Sometimes a genetic or metabolic cause is arrived at without thorough investigation. Even if your child’s pediatrician or family doctor feels that your child’s CP is genetic, a thorough investigation of the pregnancy, labour, and delivery may show you that CP is not necessarily genetic.

If you had complications during your pregnancy, labour and delivery, or birth, and your child suffered a brain injury such as cerebral palsy, you may have legal recourse.

For more than 40 years, the skilled and experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Sommers Roth & Elmaleh have been helping patients and families affected by birth injuries. We have a particular focus on helping children and families affected by cerebral palsy.

Over the years, we have set ground-breaking legal precedents and have obtained significant compensation for many children (and adults) with cerebral palsy. We have been at the forefront of developments in medical malpractice litigation and are consistently recognized by members of both the legal and medical community as being among the top medical malpractice lawyers in the country. Call us at 1-844-777-7372 or contact us online for a free consultation.


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