Cerebral Palsy Prevalence Has Not Decreased and Remains Higher in Black Infants

Kim Van Naarden Braun, Ph.D. Epidemiologist Developmental Disabilities Branch National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA 30341

Dr. Van Naarden Braun

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kim Van Naarden Braun, Ph.D.

Epidemiologist
Developmental Disabilities Branch
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, GA  30341

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

Dr. Van Naarden Braun: Over the past five decades, remarkable improvements have been made in obstetric and neonatal care resulting in significant declines in infant mortality both in the US and abroad, particularly for infants born premature and very low birthweight. Successes in neonatal survival have been met by concerns that the occurrence of developmental disabilities, most notably cerebral palsy, would increase. By monitoring changes over time in the prevalence of cerebral palsy, we can try to understand the impact of these advances further. Our recently published study reported that the birth prevalence of cerebral palsy has not decreased from the mid-1980’s to early 2000’s.

The study also looked at whether the birth prevalence over time differed for children with cerebral palsy who were in certain racial and ethnic groups, had certain birth characteristics, or had other developmental disabilities and found that:

  • The birth prevalence of children with cerebral palsy with moderate to severe intellectual disability decreased about 2.6% each year from 1985 to 2002.
  • Birth prevalence of cerebral palsy among black children was higher than among white and Hispanic children, and this higher prevalence continued over the 17-year period.
  • Overall, there was no change over time in cerebral palsy birth prevalence among children born at certain birthweights or gestational age, but there were some differences when looking at these factors in different racial/ethnic groups.

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

Dr. Van Naarden Braun: It is encouraging that the birth prevalence of cerebral palsy has not increased over time, yet the lack of a decline overall and the consistently higher prevalence among black than white children, highlight the need to continue to monitor cerebral palsy, investigate further the persistent disparities among racial groups, and accelerate the pace of research and the search for interventions. Data that examines trends is useful for anticipating resource needs as children with cerebral palsy transition into adulthood.

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

Dr. Van Naarden Braun: Recommendations from this study include ongoing monitoring of cerebral palsy to further examine changes over time and the racial/ethnic disparities that we found. As birth weight and gestational age are established risk factors for cerebral palsy, further research to better understand these and other risk factors for cerebral palsy and to identify areas for prevention is warranted. We, at CDC are committed to finding out how many people have cerebral palsy, understanding the risk factors for cerebral palsy, and helping parents and families recognize the early signs of cerebral palsy so that intervention can begin as soon as possible to maximize a child’s potential. If a parent or their doctor has concerns about cerebral palsy, they can get information from a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician or a child neurologist, and they can contact their local early intervention agency, for children under 3, or public school, for children 3 and older. To find your state’s early intervention contact information, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/parents/states.html . In addition, the CDC has links to information for families, including a comprehensive list of resources. Go to www.cdc.gov/cp .

Citation:

Birth Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy: A Population-Based Study

Kim Van Naarden Braun, Nancy Doernberg, Laura Schieve, Deborah Christensen, Alyson Goodman, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp

Pediatrics January 2016

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Kim Van Naarden Braun, Ph.D. (2015). Cerebral Palsy Prevalence Has Not Decreased and Remains Higher in Black Infants