Cerebral palsy: Factors that affect life expectancy in patients

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s son Zain died on Monday morning at the age of 26. He was born with cerebral palsy, a congenital neurological disorder. Cerebral palsy is basically an early life brain injury which doesn’t progress with time and is usually seen in children after birth or the early phases of life. This may occur due to foetal brain damage due to stroke, infection or oxygen deficiency. (Also read: What is Cerebral Palsy? Know its causes and symptoms from expert)

Life expectancy with cerebral palsy differs from person to person and may depend on the severity of the patient’s condition as well as proper management of symptoms.

“The life expectancy with cerebral palsy is usually lower as compared to the general population. However, it depends upon the severity of the diseases. When the cerebral palsy is mild then is different while when it comes to moderate or severe it is different in terms of life expectancy. It depends on the severity level of the patient condition, as well as proper management of his or her symptoms. This may put a patient at risk for diminished life expectancy,” says Dr Shirish Hastak, Neurologist and Regional Director for Neurology, Stroke and Neurocritical Care at Global Hospital.

“The more functional domains like mobility, cognition, upper limbs dysphagia are affected more is risk to life with lot of these kids not making to 20 years,” says Dr. Praveen Gupta, Principal Director & Head, Department of Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

The symptoms of cerebral palsy are not same in every individual. The symptoms may include stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes or stiff muscles with normal reflexes, lack of balance and muscle coordination, tremors or jerky involuntary movements, difficulty in walking, difficulty with fine motor skills, delays in speech development, difficulty with chewing, excessive drooling, learning and intellectual difficulties. The person with cerebral palsy may develop other neurological conditions such as seizures, abnormal eye movement, bladder and bowel problems and other mental health conditions.

“The presence of seizures can lead to injury, falls and sudden death in epilepsy patients (SUDEP). Mobility restrictions lead to severe impairment of hygiene risk of ulceration weight gain leading to fatal infections,” says Dr Gupta.

Some studies suggest that properly managing a child’s health status may assist in optimizing the life span. But usually, the patient diagnosed with cerebral palsy dies due to respiratory involvement like pneumonia, chest infection, or lungs problems, according to Dr Hastak.

“The problem with cerebral palsy is that it is a multifactorial impairment of the brain – Hemiplegia or quadriplegia or intellectual impairment, seizure, loss of vision or deafness. And based on these impairments the life quality and expectancy changes,” says the expert, adding, “the patient with a severe case of cerebral palsy can survive between 10-17 years, while in case of mild cerebral palsy, the patient may live longer even up to 50 to 55 years.”

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