Prognosis is the likely course of a disease and the long-term effects of the disease on a patient’s overall function and quality of life. A prognosis is a prediction that helps to plan future treatment. It also provides an opportunity for patients and caregivers to take measures to improve the overall outlook of the disease.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a complex neurological condition. Different patients may experience varying degrees of disability, ranging from mild to severe. Patients may also experience health complications that seem unrelated to the disease. The prognosis is different for each patient. In order to make a prognosis, a physician studies the patient’s motor abilities and developmental milestones and makes predictions about the person’s ability to walk, overall mobility, intellectual capability, vision and hearing, life expectancy, and quality of life.
People with CP may have shorter life spans than the general population, living between 30 and 70 years, depending on the severity of the condition. In recent years, the age of death for those with severe CP has shifted from childhood to early adulthood.
Factors that affect prognosis and life expectancy
There are several factors that determine the prognosis and life expectancy of a patient with CP. These include the severity of disabilities, the extent of mobility impairment, the ability to self-feed, the presence of visual, respiratory, or other medical complications, and the quality of the treatment they receive.
Generally, patients who are mildly affected by CP with no or minimal cognitive limitations or mobility impairment and who respond to physical and occupational therapy live longer than those who are severely disabled.
How to improve prognosis and life expectancy
Caregivers, parents, and physicians can help improve a patient’s prognosis and life expectancy. An effective care plan that aims to improve prognosis and life expectancy should include goals such as optimizing the patient’s mobility, learning about pain management, preventing and managing complications, encouraging independence, enhancing social and peer interactions, encouraging self-care, maximizing communication and learning potential, and enhancing quality of life. These goals can be achieved by making use of early interventions and appropriate treatments, combined with a healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset.
Being alert and aware
To improve prognosis and life expectancy, caregivers or parents of patients with CP should learn — and remain alert to and aware of — the patient’s everyday needs and any new complications, such as any hearing or vision loss, breathing difficulties, intellectual disabilities, or mobility issues. They can consult doctors and specialists to identify and manage all physical and cognitive symptoms and complications, and tailor a specific care plan. Caregivers can also help the physician identify and track the patient’s condition to determine goals and treatment plans. Timely action can ensure that the patient receives the most appropriate interventions or treatments as soon as possible, which will improve the potential outcome.
Prognosis and life expectancy can be improved by early intervention or treatment. Although CP is not a progressive condition, it is beneficial to diagnose and manage it as early as possible in a patient’s life. CP-associated health complications may worsen with time, disrupting normal development. Early intervention can help prevent the progression of health problems that may develop into lifelong complications. For example, early educational interventions can help a child thrive in spite of intellectual or learning disabilities, speech delays, or hearing or vision loss. Research has shown that children with CP have a high chance of learning to walk if they receive therapy at an early stage and learn to sit and stand without help. Regular physical and occupational therapy at a young age can improve a patient’s ability to move and feed himself.
Caregivers should encourage and teach the patient to be independent, to interact and be social with others, maximize learning skills, do his or her best at school, accept differences, develop a positive attitude, and learn how to live with disabilities. These measures can improve their quality of life, even when it is not possible to treat the symptoms.
Last updated: March 2, 2020
Cerebral Palsy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.