Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy

By Jeff Rasansky

Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy

Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy

“Hypotonic” is not a name usually used for cerebral palsy. Most doctors use the term “ataxic” instead. Hypertonic means low muscle tone. Statistics show hypotonic cerebral palsy only account for 10% of cerebral palsy sufferers. It is the rarest form of the disorder. To understand hypotonic cerebral palsy it is helpful to have knowledge about the disorder as a whole.

Statistics show half a million Americans are affected by cerebral palsy. By definition, hypotonic cerebral palsy refers to the brain’s two halves (cerebral), to any disorder involving impairment in control of bodily movement (palsy) and low muscle tone (hypotonic). Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that sometimes affects a person’s intellectual ability as well as the victim’s ability to move and to maintain balance and posture.

Hypotonic cerebral palsy sufferers might seem floppy or unsteady when they walk. Hypotonic cerebral palsy sufferers often have difficulty in maintaining posture while sitting or standing. Hypotonic cerebral palsy is incurable. The effects of this condition are more pronounced in some patients than in others. However, hypotonic cerebral palsy does not, generally, get worse over time.

There are several main causes of hypotonic cerebral palsy: acquired hypotonic cerebral palsy from head injury or asphyxiation, congenital hypotonic cerebral palsy from infections during pregnancy, jaundice, or lack of oxygen to the brain. Cerebral palsy generally manifests itself in several apparent manners.


Types of Cerebral Palsy

  • Spastic – 70% of people with cerebral palsy suffer from stiff and weak muscles
  • Ataxic or hypotonic – 10% of people with cerebral palsy suffer from poor coordination and involuntary muscular movement
  • Athetoid – 20% of people suffer from slow moving muscles which move involuntarily
  • Mixed – Often times, unfortunately, victims suffer from two of these forms of cerebral palsy

Causes of Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy

  • Acquired Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy – This type of cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to the brain after the time of birth. This damage often occurs during the first months or years of life. Brain injury, bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis, or head injury are some main causes of acquired cerebral palsy.
  • Congenital Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy – This type of cerebral palsy occurs when there is an incident which takes place before birth or near birth which damage the motor centers of the brain. Most common causes of congenital cerebral palsy include:
  • Infections during Pregnancy – A developing fetus can be infected with German measles or rubella which can damage the developing nervous system resulting in hypotonic cerebral palsy. Other infections like cytomeqalovirus and toxoplasmosis can also cause infections which may lead to hypotonic cerebral palsy.
  • Jaundice – Jaundice is a condition in which excessive amounts of bilirubin dissolve the layer of fat which is normally under the skin causing skin to appear yellow. Severe jaundice can damage the brain and can ultimately result in hypotonic cerebral palsy.
  • Severe Lack of Oxygen – If the brain is denied oxygen for an extended period of time during labor or delivery, it may be damaged and result in hypotonic cerebral palsy. Lack of oxygen accounts for sixty percent of people suffering from congenital hypotonic cerebral palsy.
  • Other Causes – Other more general, possible causes of hypotonic cerebral palsy include: breech birth, complicated delivery or labor, low birth weight, nervous system defects, maternal bleeding, maternal hyperthyroidism and doctor error.

Doctors diagnose hypotonic cerebral palsy by testing motor skills and reflexes, looking into medical history, and employing a variety of specialized tests. Most patients are diagnosed before the age of three. Although its symptoms may change over time, hypotonic cerebral palsy by definition is not progressive, so if a patient shows increased impairment, the problem may be something other than hypotonic cerebral palsy.


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