Initial signs for parents to notice, that their infant is not developing normally. Infants with cerebral palsy perform movements slowly, take longer time to roll over, sit, crawl, or walk. When an infant develops comparatively slowly then it is called developmental delay.
Some of the skills that normal infants should have: Holding own head up when lying flat in a bed at 3 months, Sitting and rolling over by 6 months, Walking by 12-18 months, Speaking simple sentences by 24 months.

Earlier most children with cerebral palsy were diagnosed by the time they are two years old. But if a child’s Symptoms was mild; it would be hard for a doctor to make a true diagnosis before the child is four or five years old. With better understanding of patho-mechanism and presentation, now we can make suspicion as high risk baby at the time of birth and definite diagnosis at the age of three month so we can give much better response in these children by early intervention.

Doctors diagnose cerebral palsy by obtaining a complete medical history of development and examining the child, paying special attention to the child’s movement pattern and associated medical problem like epilepsy, vision, hearing, speech problem& recurrent chest infection. In addition to checking for the most common symptoms — such as slow development, abnormal muscle tone, and unusual posture — a doctor also has to make sure the child doesn’t have something else that could cause similar symptoms.

Some children have hypotonia, which means that their muscles are too relaxed. In this case, the Childs muscle may appear very flexible. Sometimes a child can have hypotonia that later become hypertonia two to 24 months after birth. Other children have hypertonia which makes their muscles seems stiff. Child can also have fluctuating pattern of tone known as dyskinetic pattern of movement disorder. Children may also have unusual posture or favouring one side of their body. What’s most important to the doctor is making sure that the child’s condition is not getting worse. Although cerebral palsy symptoms may change over time, children with cerebral palsy do not usually lose function at rapid pace. That means, if a child does seem to be losing motor skills, the problem is probably not cerebral palsy. It more likely a genetic or muscle disease, a metabolism disorder, or tumours in the nervous system. A complete medical history, special medical tests, and, in some cases, repeated check-ups can help confirm whether or not the child has cerebral palsy for certain. Usually the diagnosis of cerebral palsy has been made based on the basis of detail medical history and physical examination. Lab investigation is not required in most of the cases. But in few cases with doubtful cases and suspected brain lesion few investigation may required.

With recent advancements in technology and its reach, some time Doctors conduct brain scans (like MRI scans), that allow doctors to look into the brain, can find problems that may be able to be treated. If it is cerebral palsy, an MRI scan can also show a doctor the location and type of injury to the brain. This test uses a computer, a magnetic field, and radio waves to create a picture of the brain’s tissues and structures. Doctors prefer MRI imaging because it offers better detail and does not involve radiation. Other methods may include

Cranial ultrasound. This test is used for high-risk premature infants because it is the least intrusive of the imaging techniques. However, it is not as effective as the two methods described below at seeing small changes in “white matter” – which is the type of brain tissue that is affected in cerebral palsy. Computed tomography (CT) scan. This technique creates images that show brain injury. On rare occasions, metabolic disorders can be mistaken as cerebral palsy and some children will require additional tests to rule them out. Xray- xray of pelvis and spine are required to see hip and spinal problem
Blood investigation are required to see metabolic causes and other associated medical problem

Genetic analysis is being advised in certain cases to see some genetic cause of neurological deficit.

To confirm a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, a doctor may send a child to other doctors who have specialized knowledge and training or to specialty clinics where these doctors work with a team of health professionals who specialize in working with children with cerebral palsy and other developmental delays. These doctors Might be child neurologists, developmental paediatricians, ophthalmologists (eye doctors), or otologists (ENT doctors). Additional observations by these specialists can help the doctors make a more accurate diagnosis and begin to develop a specific plan for treatment.

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Dr. Jitendra Kumar Jain