Aim To establish a prevalence estimate for drooling and explore factors associated with drooling in a population sample of children with cerebral palsy (CP) aged 7 to 14 years living in Victoria, Australia.
Method A self-report questionnaire was used to collect data on drooling from parents of children born between 1996 and 2001, and registered with the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register.
Results A total of 385 children (231 males, 154 females; mean age 10y 9mo [SD 1y 7mo], range 8–14y) were studied. The clinical type and distribution of CP were spastic (341), ataxic (16), dyskinetic (17), hypotonic (10), and unknown (1). Distribution in Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) levels was I (103), II (98), III (52), IV (63), V (61), and unknown (8). After adjustment for topographical pattern of motor impairment and GMFCS level, 40% were reported to have experienced drooling between 4 years of age and the time of completing the questionnaire. A significantly higher prevalence of drooling was found in children with poor gross motor function and in those with more severe presentations of CP, including poor head control, difficulty with eating, and inability to sustain lip closure (p<0.001 for each). Drooling was shown to be significantly associated with both intellectual disability and epilepsy in this group of children (p<0.001 for both).
Interpretation With a prevalence of 40%, drooling is an important comorbidity in CP. It was considered severe in 15% of children. Poor oromotor function was associated with drooling and could be the target of interventions for this under-researched problem.