Why do Children With Cerebral Palsy Commonly Have Seizures?

Cerebral palsy is a complex medical condition that can entail a host of symptoms. One of the most common is seizures. However, it is important to know that seizures can be either a symptom of cerebral palsy or a symptom of a co-occurring seizure disorder. About 25% to 35% of all children born with cerebral palsy also have epilepsy, and epilepsy and cerebral palsy can coexist. Seizures attributed to cerebral palsy may be grand mal or partial seizures.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy Seizures

Children who develop cerebral palsy may experience seizures due to abnormal nerve impulses. These impulses can happen in different areas of the brain and cause symptoms that range in severity. Some children may only display mild symptoms of a seizure such as staring episodes or twitching of the eyes and limbs, and more severe seizures can manifest involuntary shaking episodes and full body spasms often attributed to grand mal seizures. When these seizures happen frequently, it usually indicates epilepsy or another seizure disorder.

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy Seizures

Grand mal seizures are severe incidents that can involve involuntary thrashing and flailing that can lead to unintentional injuries. Grand mal seizures may require medical intervention. A child who experiences a grand mal seizure can exhibit symptoms that begin with shouting and cries of pain followed by unconsciousness and then violent shaking or convulsions. Parents of a child who has a grand mal seizure must be very careful to prevent their child from hurting him or herself while convulsing and thrashing.

Complex or partial seizures generally only affect one side of the brain at a time and may only display symptoms on one side of the body. He or she may experience twitching or involuntary movements on one side of the body, an arm, or a leg followed by feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, or even hallucinations. Complex seizures are less severe but repetitive seizures that may manifest symptoms such as lip smacking, staring, or constant blinking.

A child who has a grand mal seizure disorder in conjunction with cerebral palsy may face uncertainty regarding his or her symptoms. Symptoms may be relatively mild for one seizure and then the next involves much more severe symptoms.

Positively Diagnosing Seizures

There are several imaging tests a doctor may order to confirm a child’s seizure disorder, including:

  • An electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain waves and electrical pulses in the brain
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses radio waves and magnets to produce three-dimensional, cross-sectional images of a patient’s brain
  • A computed tomography (CT), which uses x-rays to create images of a patient’s brain

Any child with cerebral palsy who has a seizure should undergo an EEG screening. EEGs can detect some seizures, but not all types and the attending physician may require a CT scan or MRI scan to confirm seizure activity in the brain. Parents can help with the diagnostic process by recording symptoms they observe at home.

Positively diagnosing a child’s seizures is crucial for treatment. There are some medications that can help with specific seizure disorders, and children who suffer seizures from cerebral palsy may require specialized treatments or additional medications that can help improve their quality of life.

Protecting a Child’s Rights

If a child develops cerebral palsy due to negligent prenatal care, poor monitoring during labor or delivery, or excessive force from the attending physician, the child’s parents should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether they have grounds for a lawsuit. If a doctor or other medical professional violated the standard of care for the parents’ delivery and caused their child to develop cerebral palsy, the parents can secure compensation for their immediate and future medical expenses for treating their child’s condition and possibly additional damages as well.