Cerebral palsy is the most widespread physical disability in the world affecting millions of children and adults. Our law firm handles cerebral palsy cases and we closely track these statistics. This page was last updated on January 2, 2019.
High-quality statistical data on cerebral palsy is primarily generated by 2 government-funded health information agencies in the United States and in Europe:
- Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE): Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe (SCPE) is a collaborative organization comprised of researchers and medical professionals and funded by a handful of European countries and other charitable donors. SCPE maintains an informational registry for cerebral palsy cases in Europe dating back to the early 1990s and SCPE has compiled one of the most extensive CP databases in the world.
- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM): The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network is the U.S. counterpart to SCPE. ADDM maintains a registry and statistical database for autism, cerebral palsy and other childhood disabilities. The ADDM's information scope is limited to cases within the United States.
- In the U.S. the overall incidence rates of cerebral palsy are comparatively low. The chances of having a baby diagnosed with cerebral palsy are less than 1%. One study indicates that about 3 out of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. will eventually be diagnosed with some form of cerebral palsy by their 8th birthday.
- Despite this very low rate of occurrence (at least in the U.S.) the overall number of babies diagnosed with cerebral palsy is still very high. Approximately 10,000 newborns are diagnosed with cerebral palsy on an annual basis. This makes cerebral palsy the most common cause of disability in children.
- Outside the U.S. the reported occurrence rates of cerebral palsy vary from less than 2 to more than 5 babies per 1,000 live births. Most researchers believe this to be an underestimate due to the lack of reporting in some countries.
- Cerebral palsy prevalence rates are believed to be appreciably higher in developing countries due to lower standards of medical care.
- Cerebral palsy is an everyday reality for a large segment of the U.S. population. It is estimated that just under 1 million people in the United States are currently living with some type of cerebral palsy. Nearly two thirds (65%) of these people living with CP are children.
- Male babies are more likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy than females; this is likely due to the fact that male babies are more at risk for complications during childbirth because of their larger size.
- Males = 3.6 per 1,000
- Females = 2.5 per 1,000
- The incidence rate of cerebral palsy is higher in African American newborns than in Caucasians. Asian babies have the lowest CP rate:
- African American = 3.9 per 1,000
- Caucasian = 2.7 per 1,000
- Hispanic = 2.4 per 1,000
- Asian = 1.3 per 1,000
There are 4 recognized subtypes of cerebral palsy: (1) spastic; (2) ataxic; (3) dyskinetic; and (4) mixed. Each subtype has its own highly unique characteristics and features.
- Spastic: Around 70-76% of all cerebral palsy cases are classified as spastic CP making it the most common cerebral palsy subtype.
- Dyskinetic: dyskinetic is the 2nd most common cerebral palsy subtype accounting for about 5-10% of all CP cases.
- Ataxic: the least common cerebral palsy subtype is ataxic CP which applies to less than 5% of all cases.
- Mixed: the remaining cerebral palsy cases (about 15% in total) are classified as mixed type CP.
- Over half (58%) of children with cerebral palsy can walk on their own without the assistance of mobility devices such as walkers or wheelchairs. Approximately 75% have been able to ambulate at some time in their lives.
- 11% of kids with cerebral palsy require hand-held mobility aids or devices to walk independently.
- 31% of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy are confined to wheelchairs and cannot walk independently.
- Approximately 60% of children with cerebral palsy suffer from some type of co-occurring developmental disability related to their cerebral palsy:
- 40% of children with cerebral palsy are diagnosed with intellectual delays making it the most common co-occurring disability associated with CP.
- Epilepsy is the 2nd most common co-occurring condition affecting about 35% of kids with cerebral palsy.
- The next most common co-occurring condition is vision impairment which occurs in 15% of cases.
- Low Birth Weight: babies that weight between 3-5 pounds at birth are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy (6.2 per 1,000) than a normal weight baby. When the birthweight is less than 3 pounds the CP rate jumps up astronomically to 59.5 per 1,000 births. The CP rate for babies with a normal birthweight (over 5.5 lbs.) is 1.1 per 1,000. A 5.5-pound baby is not a big child. So there is no question that smaller children are at much greater risk.
- Prematurity: full-term babies born after week 37 of gestation or later have a CP rate of only 1.4 per 1,000. Premature birth at 32 to 36 weeks gestation increases the CP up to 6.1 per 1,000. Babies born even sooner at 28 to 31 weeks gestation have an extremely high rate of cerebral palsy at 79.5 per 1,000 births.
- Multiples: multiple birth pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.) are 5 times more at risk for cerebral palsy compared to single-birth pregnancies. This rate increase is at least partly due to the fact that multiples have a much higher rate of premature birth.
- HIE: Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a very dangerous type of neurologic birth injury resulting from blood and oxygen loss during labor and delivery. Approximately 20% of cerebral palsy cases occurring during childbirth are the result of HIE.
- Maternal Infections: untreated infections during pregnancy can increase the risks of CP. Chorioamnionitis (a fetal membrane infection) accounts for approximately 12% of CP cases in full-term babies and 28% in premature birth babies.
If you believe your child's cerebral palsy could have been prevented by better medical care during labor and delivery, you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit. You and your child may be entitled to receive financial compensation. We can help you determine your options. If you think your child may have been negligently harmed by a doctor or nurse's mistake, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.