Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of childhood-onset, lifelong physical disability in most countries, affecting about 1 in 500 neonates with an estimated prevalence of 17 million people worldwide. Cerebral palsy is not a disease entity in the traditional sense but a clinical description of children who share features of a non-progressive brain injury or lesion acquired during the antenatal, perinatal or early postnatal period. The clinical manifestations of cerebral palsy vary greatly in the type of movement disorder, the degree of functional ability and limitation and the affected parts of the body. There is currently no cure, but progress is being made in both the prevention and the amelioration of the brain injury. For example, administration of magnesium sulfate during premature labour and cooling of high-risk infants can reduce the rate and severity of cerebral palsy. Although the disorder affects individuals throughout their lifetime, most cerebral palsy research efforts and management strategies currently focus on the needs of children. Clinical management of children with cerebral palsy is directed towards maximizing function and participation in activities and minimizing the effects of the factors that can make the condition worse, such as epilepsy, feeding challenges, hip dislocation and scoliosis. These management strategies include enhancing neurological function during early development; managing medical co-morbidities, weakness and hypertonia; using rehabilitation technologies to enhance motor function; and preventing secondary musculoskeletal problems. Meeting the needs of people with cerebral palsy in resource-poor settings is particularly challenging.
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