What is Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy?

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  • Written By: L. Burgoon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2018
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Quadriplegic cerebral palsy is a form of the motor disorder that affects muscle control in all four limbs. A spastic form of cerebral palsy, it is marked by severe motor dysfunction, in which arm and leg movements are stiff and difficult. Some suffers are confined to wheelchairs and unable to perform functions such as feeding themselves, while others may be able to walk short distances. A child with quadriplegic cerebral palsy is more likely to be diagnosed with mental retardation, although this is sometimes misdiagnosed because of the child’s communication difficulties.

Quadriplegic cerebral palsy is in the spastic category and is signified by difficult, jerky movements of all limbs. The disorder makes activities such as walking, gripping an object, or moving positions more challenging. Some cases of quadriplegia also fall into mixed forms of cerebral palsy; for example, a person may have spastic muscle dysfunction accompanied by the involuntary movements indicative of the athetoid form of cerebral palsy.

Mild cases of quadriplegic cerebral palsy result in impaired motor function that requires minimal assistance for everyday tasks. For example, those with a mild form usually can sit independently and often can walk with the aid of a walker or crutches. If a wheelchair is required, people with mild quadriplegic cerebral palsy often can lift themselves in and out of the chair. Tasks such as eating or brushing teeth are more difficult to complete but usually not impossible for those with mild quadriplegia.


Severe cases of quadriplegic cerebral palsy sometimes require around the clock care. Those with more acute forms cannot walk and likely cannot sit or change positions without assistance. The impairment may extend to the person’s head and neck, further complicating body movements and making breathing, chewing and swallowing more difficult. Those with severe cases must be monitored for choking risks from eating and sometimes require a feeding tube if swallowing functions are overly compromised.

Children with quadriplegic cerebral palsy are at increased risk of mental retardation resulting from brain damage during childbirth or while in utero. This risk is compounded by other factors, including premature birth, low birth weight, and lack of oxygen during delivery. Risk is additionally increased if the mother abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. Caregivers should consider a second opinion when mental retardation is diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, however. Children may have normal intelligence levels, but can be misdiagnosed with retardation because the cerebral palsy creates communication difficulties that can be misinterpreted as a mental disability.



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