Low Birth Weight Associated with Higher Incidence of Cerebral Palsy in Black Infants

Low Birth Weight Associated with Higher Incidence of Cerebral Palsy in Black Infants

Up-to-date demographic trends and the prevalence of children being born with cerebral palsy (CP) in the United States were the focus of a recent study, Birth Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy: A Population-Based Study, that appeared in the journal Pediatrics.

A research team led by Kim Van Naarden Braun of the Developmental Disabilities Branch, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studied infants born in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1985 to 2002. The researchers analyzed diagnoses of congenital spastic CP by birth weight, gestational age, and race/ethnicity.

The prevalence of CP during the time period analyzed remained stable, with 1.9 in 1,000 infants diagnosed with CP in 1985, and 1.8 in 1,000 in 2002. The scientists additionally reported a decline in babies with CP who had a co-occurring intellectual disability, noting that “no significant trends were observed by gender, subtype, birth weight, or gestational age overall, CP prevalence with co-occurring moderate to severe intellectual disability significantly decreased.”

Over time, low birth weight and premature infants experienced increased survival, most likely due to advances in the management of early births and improved premature infant care. Black infants were more likely than non-Hispanic white infants to be diagnosed with CP, and these black babies were more likely to have a low birth weight than non-Hispanic white babies with CP. However, its prevalence did not vary by race when birth weights were compared.

The investigators concluded that, “Given improvements in neonatal survival, evidence of stability of CP prevalence is encouraging. Yet lack of overall decreases supports continued monitoring of trends and increased research and prevention efforts. Racial/ethnic disparities, in particular, warrant further study.”

The disparities in birth weight based on race need further study and prevention, particularly based on the association between low birth weight and CP.

Although it is encouraging that CP has not increased in the past 17 years in this population, it is also noteworthy that despite advances in healthcare and neonatal care, more striking reductions of CP in infants have not been observed. Overall, the investigators recommended an “accelerated focus on understanding risk factors, targeting prevention strategies, and reducing disparities.”

CP is the most common childhood movement disorder. It is associated with many symptoms including difficulty walking, problems with movement, rigidity, failure to thrive and learning disabilities, as well as other symptoms.