Life expectancy in children with cerebral palsy

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 13 August 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:431
  1. J L Hutton,
  2. T Cooke,
  3. P O D Pharoah
  1. Departments of Statistics, Computational Mathematics, and Public Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX.
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Pharoah.
  • Accepted 8 June 1994


Objective : To determine life expectancy of children with cerebral palsy.

Design : Cohort analysis, by means of register compiled from multiple sources of ascertainment, of all children with cerebral palsy born during 1966-84 to mothers resident in Mersey region. Status of children was determined by flagging through NHS central register.

Subjects : 1258 subjects with idiopathic cerebral palsy, of whom 1251 were traced and included in analysis.

Main outcome measures : Effect of functional ability (ambulation, manual dexterity, and mental ability), sex, birth weight, and gestational age on survival.

Results : 20 year survival for whole cohort was 89.3% for females and 86.9% for males. For subjects with no severe functional disabilities 20 year survival was 99% (95% confidence interval 98% to 100%), while subjects severely disabled in all three functional groups had 20 year survival of 50% (42% to 58%). Subjects with birth weight <=2500 g had 20 year survival of 92% (89% to 95%), while those with birth weight <2500 g had survival of 87% (84% to 89%). Subjects with gestational age of <37 weeks had 20 year survival of 93% (91% to 96%), while those with gestational age >=37 weeks had survival of 85% (83% to 88%). Birth weight and gestational age were less predictive of survival than functional disability. Best statistical model used gestational age and number of severe functional disabilities as predictors.

Conclusions : Life expectancy of this cohort of children with cerebral palsy was greater than has been suggested in some previous studies. This has important implications for social, educational, and health services.


    • Accepted 8 June 1994
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