Cerebral Palsy Life Spans: How Long Do People With Cerebral Palsy Live?

4 min read

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: “how long do people with cerebral palsy live?”

This is because cerebral palsy life spans are different for each patient, depending on a variety of factors. The good news is that treatment options for cerebral palsy have come a long way over the last few decades.

With the appropriate services and support, children and adults with CP can stay well, active, and a part of the community.

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Proper support to keep loved ones with cerebral palsy healthy and active can be very expensive. However, money from a cerebral palsy lawsuit can help improve both quality of life and quality of care, ensuring your loved one has as long and happy a life as possible.

What Is the Life Span for People With Cerebral Palsy?

Caring for a loved one with cerebral palsy comes with a great deal of uncertainty over the future. It is, therefore, common to have lots of questions. One of the main questions caregivers have is: “How long do you live with cerebral palsy?”

The reality is, there is no concrete answer to the question. This is because there are a number of factors unique to each individual that come into play. The various factors of each case greatly impact cerebral palsy life spans.

However, cerebral palsy is being studied more and more, which allows health care professionals to better understand and treat the condition. The studies also allow researchers to more accurately estimate the life expectancy of infants with cerebral palsy.

One study, published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), used data from the Mersey Cerebral Palsy Register (MCPR) to study cerebral palsy life spans. MCPR is a population-based study from the United Kingdom that has been collecting data on cerebral palsy patients all the way back to the 1960s.

The general findings are that people with mild cerebral palsy tend to live just as long as those who do not have the condition at all. In a recent News Medical article, Dr. Ananya Mandal states:

Children with mild forms of cerebral palsy have a normal life expectancy. For example, a two-year-old child with mild palsy has a 99% chance of living to the age of 20, compared with a patient who has severe disease, where the figure may be as low as 40%.

Most children and adults with cerebral palsy can live long and happy lives. There are also steps that parents and caregivers can take to ensure their loved ones live as normally and independently as possible.

What Factors Affect Cerebral Palsy Life Spans?

Cerebral palsy affects each person differently, making it difficult to predict cerebral palsy life spans.

Though the original brain complications from cerebral palsy do not worsen over time, these complications can put a strain on the body. Additionally, the daily challenges of living with cerebral palsy can be tough to deal with, which can affect quality of life.

Some factors that affect cerebral palsy life spans are:

  • Specific types of disabilities
  • Number of impairments
  • Severity of impairments
  • Level of restricted mobility
  • Severity of feeding difficulties
  • Presence of seizures
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired respiratory functions

It is important to speak with your care team about all possible factors that can affect a cerebral palsy patient's lifespan.

Ways to Improve Quality of Life for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Common methods of improving life quality for a person with cerebral palsy include regular visits to health care professionals, special education, and services to cope with physical impairments.

Other ways to improve quality of life include:

  • Physiotherapy: Teaches techniques such as exercise and stretching to help with physical ability and movement problems
  • Speech therapy: Helps with speech, communication, and swallowing difficulties
  • Occupational therapy: Provides techniques to better perform daily tasks that may be challenging
  • Medication: Controls pain, muscle stiffness, and other physical difficulties
  • Surgery: Can help improve movement and treat growth problems

In addition, assistive devices may help people with cerebral palsy live more normal, independent lives.

Some common types of assistive devices are:

  • Mobility devices: Wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers
  • Positioning devices: Special seats, wedges, and standing frames
  • Prosthetics and orthotics: Artificial limbs, spinal braces, and orthopedic shoes
  • Daily living devices: Shower seats, toilet frames, and dressing sticks
  • Vision devices: Glasses, braille systems, audio devices, and computer screen readers
  • Hearing devices: Hearing aids, headphones, and amplified telephones

Does a Better Quality of Life Affect Cerebral Palsy Life Spans?

To assess the impact of cerebral palsy on families, the NIH uses what is called a Lifestyle Assessment Score (LAS).

The LAS score measures quality of life on six areas:

  • Physical dependency
  • Clinical burden
  • Mobility
  • Schooling
  • Economic burden
  • Social integration

According to the NIH, “quality of life for a child with CP will inevitably be affected by quality of care.”

The organization goes on to say that better quality of care, in turn, may have an effect on improving cerebral palsy life spans. Because of this possible link between better care and longer cerebral palsy life spans, it is critical to ensure your loved one has access to the best treatments available.

Get Help After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

In 2003, the CDC estimated that the lifetime cost to care for a person with cerebral palsy is nearly $1 million. This amount of money can be financially devastating to families, however, resources exist to help ease the financial burdens of caring for your child.

To learn more about accessing money needed to pay for quality lifelong care, contact our team of caring Patient Advocates.

Cerebral Palsy Guide was founded upon the goal of educating families about cerebral palsy, raising awareness, and providing support for children, parents, and caregivers affected by the condition. Our easy-to-use website offers simple, straightforward information that provides families with medical and legal solutions. We are devoted to helping parents and children access the tools they need to live a life full of happiness

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) 11 Things to Know about Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved January 27, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/features/cerebral-palsy-11-things.html

Hutton, J. & Pharoah, P. (2006.) Life expectancy in severe cerebral palsy. Archives of disease in childhood, 91(3), 254–258. Retrieved January 14, 2021 from https://doi.org/10.1136/adc.2005.075002

Mandal, A. (2019.) Cerebral Palsy Prognosis. News-Medical. Retrieved January 14, 2021 from

Maudsley, G., Hutton, J., Pharoah, P. (1999.) Cause of death in cerebral palsy: a descriptive study. Archives of Disease in Childhood; 81:390-394. Retrieved January 14, 2021 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/adc.81.5.390

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020.) Cerebral Palsy (CP). Retrieved January 14, 2021 from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/data.html

The National Health Service. (n.d.) Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved January 14, 2021 from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cerebra-palsy/Pages/Introduction.aspx