What causes cerebral palsy?

Alexander Kofinas M.D.

Cerebral palsy can occur for several reasons and a number of conditions have been associated with it. Although prematurity is often associated with cerebral palsy, most of the babies that suffer from it are born at term. Often times it is a lack of oxygen to the neonate, leading to asphyxia and brain damage, which may induce cerebral palsy. This is one reason why prematurity is often associated with cerebral palsy, since such babies are more likely to receive inadequate oxygen supplies (before, during and after birth). The presence of inflammatory markers (chemicals) in amniotic fluid and in fetal cord blood has also been associated with cerebral palsy, leading many researchers to believe that infection is one of the causes of cerebral palsy. This however, may be incorrect since many of the inflammatory markers that researchers attributed to the presence of infection were the result of non-infectious inflammatory placental reactions. In a study of neonates with cerebral palsy, it was found that 80% of the placentas exhibited various levels of thrombosis (clot formation) and chorionic tissue necrosis. It is our opinion that in most cerebral palsy cases it is some variation of placental failure, which is the culprit. Conditions such as growth failure (intrauterine fetal growth retardation), preterm labor, placental thrombosis, fetal vessel thrombosis, placenta abruptio and pre-eclampsia are all linked to an increased risk for cerebral palsy. Such complications are often the result of poor placental development.