Adults With Cerebral Palsy Risk Multiple Chronic Diseases

Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D., M.S. University of Michigan, Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Ann Arbor, MI

Dr. Peterson Interview with:
Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D., M.S
University of Michigan, Medicine
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Ann Arbor, MI

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Peterson: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurodevelopmental condition caused by a disturbance to the developing fetal or infant brain. While the incidence of CP has remained stable in recent years, the mortality rate of children with Cerebral palsy has declined, suggesting that adults with Cerebral palsy represent a growing population whose healthcare needs are poorly understood. More than half of children with Cerebral palsy are independently mobile at 8 years of age; however, a large proportion lose mobility in adulthood. These declines are attributed to pain, fatigue, and muscle weakness, and result in chronic inactivity and accelerated aging. Despite this, there have been virtually no specific surveillance efforts or even epidemiologic studies to examine the prevalence of lifestyle-related chronic diseases in adults with Cerebral palsy. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine estimates of chronic conditions in a large, U.S. population-representative sample of adults with CP (n=1,015 fromthe Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) (2002-2010). We demonstrated that adults with cerebral palsy had significantly greater estimates of chronic diseases, including diabetes, asthma, hypertension and other heart conditions, stroke, emphysema, joint pain, and arthritis as compared with adults without Cerebral palsy.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Peterson: Due to the general lack of research pertaining to health trajectories through the lifespan, adults with Cerebral palsy may have poor knowledge of personal lifestyle-related disease risks, and participate to only a limited extent in health screening activities. Our results raise important questions about preventable health complications in this population, and thus it is vital for clinicians to be cognizant of these risks and provide opportunities for patient screening, as well as education pertaining to early healthy lifestyles (e.g., health-related physical activity).

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Peterson: Future research is needed to better understand the healthcare utilization associated with chronic disease among adults with Cerebral palsy, and to examine the relationship between degree of impairment, sedentary lifestyles and primary causes of mortality. Moreover, future work is needed to determine the extent to which these findings are relevant to other population-representative samples of adults with CP, outside the U.S.


Mark D. Peterson, Ph.D., M.S. (2015). Adults With Cerebral Palsy Risk Multiple Chronic Diseases