Background The range of health problems associated with children with cerebral palsy (CP) is well documented in the literature; however, the existing data are often either reported for samples of children with all types of CP, or stratified by typology of motor disorder, rather than using the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS), which has been shown to be the most reliable way of classifying children with CP. Furthermore, availability of research on pre-school-aged children (under 5 years) is sparse. The aim of this study is to compare the prevalence and impact of health problems in pre-school children with and without CP, stratified by the GMFCS.
Methods Parents of 430 pre-school-aged children with CP (243 boys, 187 girls; mean age = 3 years 2 months, SD = 11 months) and 107 typically developing (TD) children (56 boys, 51 girls; mean age = 3 years 4 months, SD = 11 months) participated. Using the consensus definition of CP and the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, a parent survey was developed to assess the prevalence and impact of 16 health problems. The measure demonstrates good test–retest reliability (ICC > 0.80) and discriminant validity across GMFCS levels (P < 0.001).
Results Both the prevalence and impact of health problems is greater in children with CP compared with TD children (P < 0.001). The number and impact of health problems increase with ascending GMFCS level (P≤ 0.01), except for the impact of health problems between groups GMFCS I and GMFCS II/III (P= 0.19). Children with CP have an average of between 3.4 and 6.7 health problems, compared with fewer than one in TD children.
Conclusions Service providers working with pre-school-aged children with CP need to consider health problems and their impact when planning care.