Cerebral palsy : Diagnosis

If you're concerned about your child's development, speak to your health visitor or GP. If needed, they can refer you to a specialist team who can check for any problems.

Several tests may be done to look for cerebral palsy or other possible causes of your child's symptoms.

But it may not be possible to make a definitive diagnosis for several months or years, as some symptoms aren't obvious until a child is a few years old.

Examination and checks

First a specialist may:

  • ask about your child's medical history and development
  • check your child for typical symptoms of cerebral palsy
  • ask if there were any problems during your pregnancy, during the birth or soon after the birth

An assessment of your child's movements and learning abilities may also be carried out.

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Brain scans

A brain scan may be recommended to look for damage associated with cerebral palsy.

One or more of the following scans may be recommended:

  • a cranial ultrasound scan – where a small handheld device that sends out sound waves is moved over the top of your child's head to create an image of their brain
  • MRI scan – a scanner that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a more detailed image of the brain
  • CT scan – a scanner that takes several X-ray pictures to create a detailed image of the brain

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Other tests

Several other tests may also be done to help confirm cerebral palsy and rule out other conditions.

These may include:

  • an electroencephalogram (EEG) – where small pads are placed on the scalp to monitor brain activity and check for signs of epilepsy
  • an electromyogram (EMG) – where tiny needles are gently inserted into the muscles and nerves to check how well they're working
  • blood tests to check for problems that can cause similar symptoms to cerebral palsy
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