Study: Adults with cerebral palsy more likely to have chronic conditions

A recently published study found adults with cerebral palsy were more likely than adults without the condition to have secondary chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“As a father of a child with cerebral palsy, I’m dedicated to improving the scientific evidence and clinical care of this growing population,” Mark Peterson, PhD, MS, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, said in a university press release. “Unfortunately, it is still not fully understood how to best care for individuals with cerebral palsy as they transition into and throughout adulthood. We sought to determine whether adults with cerebral palsy suffer from secondary chronic health conditions more frequently, and how that can affect future medical care for this population.”

Peterson and colleagues measured the prevalence estimates of eight, lifestyle-related chronic health conditions among adults with cerebral palsy and adults without cerebral palsy, using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a set of large-scale surveys on health care service, usage and cost conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The study included 207,615 adults, of which 1,015 had cerebral palsy.

The results showed adults with cerebral palsy were between two-times and five-times more likely to have these chronic health conditions than adults without cerebral palsy. The researchers adjusted for patient age, multiple sociodemographic factors, BMI, physical activity and degree of disability, and still found the prevalence of chronic health conditions was significantly greater in adults with cerebral palsy.

The likelihood of the eight chronic conditions was as follows: diabetes, 9.2% in adults with cerebral palsy vs. 6.3% in adults without; asthma, 20.7% vs. 9.4%; hypertension, 30% vs. 22.1%; other cardiovascular conditions, 15.1% vs. 9.1%; stroke, 4.6% vs. 2.3%; emphysema, 3.8% vs. 1.4%; joint pain, 43.6% vs. 28%; and arthritis, 31.4% vs. 17.4%, respectively.

In addition, age, sex, obesity, degree of physical disability and physical inactivity were found to be significantly associated with each of the chronic conditions.

“Because cerebral palsy results in accelerated losses of mobility with age, individuals tend to experience more fatigue and have greater muscle and joint pain over time. We found physical inactivity and immobility were strongly associated with these chronic health conditions,” Peterson said. “Therefore, we need to strongly consider how these health complications could further impact this population, and how we can prevent or reduce these conditions among individuals with cerebral palsy through their lifespan.”


Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.



Peterson M, et al. JAMA, 2015;doi:10.1001/jama.2015.11025.

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