Testing & Diagnosis for Cerebral Palsy (CP) in Children

How is cerebral palsy diagnosed?

A child is usually diagnosed with CP when she’s 6 to 12 months old, since this is the time when she starts missing developmental milestones like walking and controlling her hand and head movements.

The process of diagnosing cerebral palsy begins with a physical examination. During the initial exam, a developmental pediatrician obtains a complete history of the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s birth and infancy.

Next, your child will have these diagnostic tests:

•   a neurologic examination to evaluate your child’s reflexes and motor functions
•   X-rays, which use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs
•   feeding and swallowing studies, which assess how well your child chews, drinks liquids and swallows
•   an electroencephalogram (EEG), a procedure that records the brain's continuous electrical activity through
    electrodes attached to the scalp
•   a gait laboratory analysis to evaluate the walking pattern of the child
•   Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequency waves and a
    special computer to create detailed pictures of organs and structures within the body
•   Computerized Tomography (CT) scans, which use x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional
    images of any part of the body (including bones, muscles and organs)
•   genetic studies, which screen for conditions that tend to run in families
•   metabolic tests, which detect the absence or insufficiency of specific enzymes (for example, particular amino acids,
    vitamins or carbohydrates) necessary to maintain normal body functions

Boston Children's Gait Laboratory

Boston Children's Cerebral Palsy and Spasticity Center refers some patients with complex walking problems to a special Gait Laboratory on the grounds of nearby Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

The Gait Laboratory's services include:

•   high-speed movie cameras that record your child's steps
•   electronic monitors that measure muscle activity during walking 
•   computerized data evaluation to help determine the extent of walking issues and the optimal treatment approach

For more information, please call 617-573-2203.