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Cerebral Palsy Statistics and Facts 2024

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 cerebral palsy statistics and developments in treating this condition. This page was last updated on June 12, 2024.

High-quality statistical data on cerebral palsy is primarily generated by two government-funded health information agencies in the United States and 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 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.

CP Incidence Rate Statistics

  • 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.
  • Around 65% of individuals with cerebral palsy experience mild to moderate disabilities, while approximately 35% face severe disabilities.
  • 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.
    • In the U.S., one study pegged the cerebral palsy incidence rate at 1.6 per 1000 live births.
    • Outside the U.S., the reported occurrence rates of cerebral palsy vary from less than 2 to 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 U.S. live with some type of cerebral palsy. You may not know they have CP. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of these people living with CP are children.
  • Around 764,000 people in the U.S. (including children and adults) have at least one symptom of cerebral palsy.
  • Cerebral palsy rates by country show that high-income countries have lower rates of cerebral palsy.  In high-income countries (HICs) such as Australia and parts of Europe, the prevalence of CP has decreased to around 1.6 per 1,000 live births, reflecting a 25% reduction from earlier rates of approximately 2.1 per 1,000 live births. This decline is attributed to advancements in prenatal and neonatal care.  Conversely, in low- and middle-income countries, the prevalence is higher, estimated at 3 to 4 per 1,000 live births. These figures are likely underestimated due to higher infant mortality rates and challenges in diagnosing mild cases. The disparity highlights the need for improved healthcare infrastructure and early intervention resources in LMICs to better manage and reduce CP incidence.
  • Similarly, income makes a difference  Children from low-income families are 5 to 6 times higher compared to those from higher-income families. Additionally, CP is more common in rural areas than in urban or suburban ones. Among children with severe CP, the death rate over a seven-year period was between 12.2 and 22.7 per 1,000 children.

Cerebral Palsy Demographics Statistics

  • Male babies are more likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy than females; this is likely because 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 hAfrican-American 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

Subtypes of Cerebral Palsy

Tfourere 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 second 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%) are classified as mixed-type CP.

Cerebral Palsy Symptoms & Outcomes

  • When doctors predicted that a baby would develop cerebral palsy based on early assessments at 3 to 4 months of age, they were correct 92% of the time.
  • Approximately 1 in 345 children (equivalent to 3 per 1,000 8-year-old children) in the United States are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. (Source: CDC)
  • Cerebral palsy cases in the United States have slightly decreased in recent years, dropping from 3.6 cases per 1,000 live births in 2010 to 3.0 cases per 1,000 live births in 2020. (Source: CDC)
  • Over half (58%) of children with cerebral palsy can walk independently 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.
  • 41% of children with CP had limitations in their ability to crawl, walk, run, or play
  • The estimated the lifetime costs of cerebral palsy was estimated at $921,000 in 2003. Twenty years later, when adjusted for inflation, this amount equates to over $1.6 million in 2023. (This does not include productivity losses and additional non-healthcare costs; if you add those,  the total costs become even more substantial.)
  • 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.

Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

  • Low Birth Weight: children who weigh 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 birth weight is less than 3 pounds, the CP rate jumps astronomically to 59.5 per 1,000 births. The CP rate for babies with an average 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 five times more at risk for cerebral palsy than single-birth pregnancies. This rate increase is at least partly because multiples have a much higher premature birth rate.
  • HIE: 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 occur from 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 babies.

Getting Legal Help for Your Cerebral Palsy Case

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.

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