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Bone density and Cerebral Palsy

Lack of bone density, known as Osteopenia, which can lead to Osteoporosis and poor mineral content in the bones is another factor to pay close attention to in the cerebral palsy child.  There are many various and preventable elements which all may play roles in the potential lack of sufficient minerals in the bones in cerebral palsy children. 

Immobilization and a variety of physical ailments may result in a deficiency of bone minerals due to the lack of proper physical activity in the cerebral palsy child.  The children, as patients, often also undergo several surgical procedures that may play a role in keeping them sedentary which may cause lack of bone growth.  Inadequate protein or calcium intake may also result from poor feeding, oral problems, or other eating related issues.  Other medicines such as those taken to stem convulsions and seizures may result in low serum vitamin D levels, which may decrease bone calcium.  Lack of sun exposure will also lower vitamin D levels in bones as well.  Children with cerebral palsy have most of these risk factors and careful medical attention would play a role in making sure proper bone development continued and was maintained.

Several physical factors in children with cerebral palsy may contribute to lack of bone mineral density.  Some of these include poor eating habits, jaw grinding or displacement, chewing difficulty, swallowing problems, and lack of appetite.  These factors may contribute to the child’s overall nutritional intake, a factor in bone mineral development.  While these nutritional factors may play a role, it has been determined that the physical inabilities of the cerebral palsy children are usually not significant in determining lack of bone mineral content on their own.

Supplemental calcium intake has been shown to improve bone density in normal children but not children with cerebral palsy.  There are several mitigating factors that may play a role in these findings, such as a longer history of calcium supplements in normal children versus those with cerebral palsy.  What remains true, however, is that the bone density in children with cerebral palsy increases, as they grow older, just not at the same rate as normal children.


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