Types of Cerebral Palsy - Topic Overview
Cerebral palsy (CP) is classified according to the
type of body movement and posture problem.
Spastic (pyramidal) cerebral palsy
Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type.
A person with spastic CP develops tight muscles in some
parts of the body that are unable to relax. Affected joints become stiff and
hard to move. Usually, a person has problems controlling movements, poor
coordination and balance, and difficulty talking and eating.
There are four types of spastic CP, grouped according to how many
limbs are affected.
- Hemiplegia or diplegia:
One arm and one leg on the same side of the body (hemiplegia) or both legs
(diplegia or paraplegia) are affected. These are the most common types of
spastic cerebral palsy.
- Monoplegia: Only one
arm or leg is affected.
- Quadriplegia: Both arms and both
legs are affected. Usually the trunk and muscles that control the mouth,
tongue, and windpipe are affected too. This makes eating and talking
difficult. Babies with spastic quadriplegia may:
- Have problems sucking and
- Have a weak or shrill cry.
- Have a very
relaxed and floppy body or a very stiff body. When held, they may arch their
backs and extend their arms and legs.
- Be irritable and jittery when
awake. For example, they may startle easily.
- Sleep a lot or show
little interest in what is going on around them.
- Triplegia: Either both
arms and one leg or both legs and one arm are affected.
Nonspastic (extrapyramidal) cerebral palsy
The nonspastic forms of cerebral palsy include dyskinetic cerebral
palsy (subdivided into athetoid and dystonic forms) and ataxic cerebral
- Dyskinetic cerebral
palsy is associated with muscle tone that fluctuates between being loose and
tight. In some cases, rapid and jerky or uncontrolled slow continuous movements
occur involuntarily. These movements most often affect the face and neck,
hands, feet, arms, legs, and sometimes the torso.
- Athetoid (hyperkinetic) CP
characteristics include relaxed and limp muscles during sleep, with some
involuntary jerking (chorea) or writhing (athetosis). If the face and mouth
muscles are affected, problems may develop related to unusual facial
expressions, drooling, speaking, and choking when sucking, drinking, and
- With dystonic CP, the body and neck are held
in a stiff position.
- Ataxic cerebral palsy is
the rarest type of cerebral palsy and involves the entire body. Abnormal body
movements affect the trunk, hands, arms, and legs. Ataxic CP causes
- Precise movements. For
example, the person may reach too far or too close to touch objects and may
also have poor hand control (intention tremor).
- Coordination. A
person with ataxic CP may walk with the feet unusually far
- Hand control. Often only one hand is able to reach for an
object; the other hand may shake with attempts to move it (intention tremor).
The person may not be able to button clothes, write, or use scissors.
Mixed cerebral palsy
Some children have symptoms of more than one type of cerebral
palsy. For example, spastic legs (symptoms of spastic diplegic CP)
and problems with facial muscle control (symptoms of dyskinetic CP)
may both develop.
Total body cerebral palsy affects the
entire body to some degree. Complications of cerebral palsy and other medical
problems are more likely to develop when the entire body is involved rather
than isolated parts. Total body cerebral palsy may include any of the
- Spastic quadriplegic CP
- Dyskinetic CP
- Ataxic CP