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Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy in High-Income Countries

When a parent realizes their child has cerebral palsy, one of the first conversations they will need to have with their medical provider will concern the type of therapies that will improve their child’s quality of life.

There are treatment options that can improve quality of life for children, but for many parents, the potential cost of these therapies can be intimidating. The treatments for cerebral palsy can be expensive, and that may contribute to the longer life expectancy for children with cerebral palsy in high-income countries.

Necessity of Therapy for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Children who have cerebral palsy may require a variety of therapies depending upon the severity and type of cerebral palsy that they have. Their pediatrician will likely work with the parents to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. That plan may include the following therapies:

  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Speech therapy
  • Assistive technology
  • Language therapy
  • Occupational therapy

These therapies are recommended because they can lessen the chances for developing related conditions.

Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Someone With Cerebral Palsy

While many people with cerebral palsy are capable of living long lives into late adulthood, certain factors can shorten the lifespan of a person who has the condition. These factors are:

  • The severity of the condition
  • Types of disabilities and related impairments
  • Restrictions on eating and mobility
  • Visual and respiratory functions
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Presence of seizures

Cerebral Palsy Treatment and Life Expectancy

The Cerebral Palsy Guide cites that treatment for children with cerebral palsy can actually increase a child’s life expectancy.

Costs Associated With Treating Cerebral Palsy

A study by the CDC about the economic costs of cerebral palsy found that the average costs over a lifetime for a person with cerebral palsy was more than $900,000. These costs may include indirect costs, such as an inability to work and direct costs, such as visits to medical professionals and special education.

While these costs may be met in high-income countries, it may be difficult or impossible for lower-income countries. The lack of ability to pay for these treatments in lower income countries may decrease the life expectancy of a person with cerebral palsy.

Presence of Cerebral Palsy in Low-Income Countries

The Lancet Global Health Journal conducted a study in rural Uganda which demonstrated two major differences for cerebral palsy children in low-income countries than in their high-income counterparts. The first revelation revealed that cerebral palsy was much more common in children in lower-income countries. This may be due to the lack of adequate medical care during pregnancy and birth.

The second major finding of their study was that there were more children with cerebral palsy under the age of eight than over the age of eight. The researchers suggested that this was due to children’s lower life expectancy. A lack of treatment for cerebral malaria and seizures associated with cerebral palsy was most likely to blame.

Differences in Cerebral Palsy Life Expectancy in High-Income Countries

In contrast to the situations found in low-income countries, the BMC Neurology Journal found that more than 80% of children born with cerebral palsy in the high-income country of Western Australia had a life expectancy of 58 or older. The same study found that even those children born with severe or multiple types of cerebral palsy tended to live until adulthood.

Medical Responsibility and Legal Counsel for Cerebral Palsy Parents

Treatment for cerebral palsy patients can vary financially. Yet in many of these cases, the presence of cerebral palsy may be due to a medical error resulting in a birth injury. Financial compensation may be due to these families, and parents should contact an experienced lawyer immediately to discuss their legal rights.