How Long Can My Child Survive With Cerebral Palsy?

doctorsNo parent wants to think about losing a child. However, life expectancy of a child with cerebral palsy (CP) is an important consideration in planning for the future. Raising a child with special needs takes planning ahead, understanding condition classifications, and doing whatever possible to maximize the child’s quality of life. It is important to remember that no estimate of your child’s life expectancy may be entirely accurate. Children with CP outlive predicted lifespans all the time. Speak to your child’s doctor about specific answers for how long your child may live with cerebral palsy.

Average Life Expectancy of People With Cerebral Palsy

Most children with cerebral palsy live long, healthy, and happy lives. They may require more assistance and trips to the doctor’s office than other children, but that does not have to diminish quality of life. Unfortunately, children with severe cerebral palsy, or with related complications, may be at risk for reduced lifespan. Research shows quality of care can help improve life expectancy in children with cerebral palsy.

It is difficult to calculate a child with CP’s life expectancy. Researchers do not have an “average” lifespan for people with cerebral palsy, because cases can vary significantly from person to person. You can look at the average survival times of people with CP similar to your child’s, but again – many factors can impact how long your child will live. Estimates of the probability of survival are liable to error due to the variety of factors involved.

One study states that children with severe disabilities in all four functional disability categories (cognition, mobility, manual, vision) have about a 50% probability of surviving to age 13, and a 25% chance of surviving to 30. However, the study explains that these estimates are approximate and likely to be “seriously wrong” due to estimates being taken from children who are currently alive (which ignores the child’s current age). Do not trust life expectancy estimates from anyone but your child’s physician.

Factors Impacting How Long a Child With CP Can Survive

Researchers may not be able to agree upon average life expectancies for children with cerebral palsy, but most concede that several medical and lifestyle factors can affect how long a child can survive with this condition. These factors can include:

  • The number of impairments and disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy severity and classification
  • Any life-threatening health complications
  • How well caretakers track and treat the condition
  • Proper management of the condition and its symptoms
  • Mobility restrictions and premature aging
  • Feeding or eating difficulties and malnutrition
  • Seizures or epilepsy
  • Cognitive factors and the ability to communicate
  • Respiratory functioning and distress
  • Health risks, such as pneumonia

Luckily, cerebral palsy is not a condition that worsens over time. Your child will not suffer degenerating motor skills or abilities as he or she gets older. As technologies continue to advance and more researchers continue to explore new ways to treat cerebral palsy, the chance for a longer and easier life for your child is always a possibility.

Can You Increase Your Child’s Odds of Survival?

As a parent or caretaker, you can take steps to help lengthen your child’s life. Research shows a direct connection between CP life expectancy and quality of care. Managing life-threatening associative conditions is one of the most important things parents and caretakers can do to extend a child with CP’s lifespan. Managing primary conditions and preventing complications can boost a child’s health and mitigate significant risks.

Actively seek medical solutions to potentially dangerous CP symptoms, including problems eating, seizures, vision and hearing impairments, and respiratory disabilities. Do your best to optimize your child’s mobility and independence through assistive technologies and rehabilitative therapies, as well as to maximize communication, self-care, and quality of life. Showing your child love, support, and how to embrace life with cerebral palsy could all help your child live a long and fulfilling life.