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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is cerebral palsy related to premature birth?

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  • 2

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    Dr Beth Thomas

    Paediatrician

    Beth works at the Angliss Hospital (Ferntree Gully) which has paediatric inpatients and outpatients and a Special Care Nursery. She also works at Monash Medical … View Profile

    Yes, Cerebral Palsy (CP) is seen at a rate of 1 in 500 live births, but at much higher rates in premature babies. Although premature births account for 1.4% of the total number of births, premature babies account for 30% of Cerebral Palsy cases.

    The difficult part is that although there are a lot of studies describing the association of CP with premature birth, it is difficult to know exactly what it is that causes the CP. The Australian Cerebral Palsy Register is the largest of its kind in the world and is working to monitor the prevalence and trends in CP in order to try to work out the causes, and the effects of various interventions. Improvements in resuscitation techniques for premature and multiple births, and improvements in perinatal care are slowly reducing the impact of CP, but a detailed analysis of exact causes still requires further work to be done.

  • 1

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I agree with Dr Thomas.

    My understanding (based on the fact that my partner worked for many years for an organisation which supports people with CP) is that CP arises from poorly understood problems with foetal brain development - premature birth is a consequence (not a cause) of these - it does not seem, in general, to be a risk factor for CP.

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