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There are several different forms of cerebral palsy including spastic, athetoid, and ataxic. While each one is devastating in its own way, mixed cerebral palsy combines different types of cerebral palsy along with each individual type's effect. Roughly 10 percent of cerebral palsy patients suffer from mixed cerebral palsy; a combination of two or more types.
Children with mixed cerebral palsy usually have both the tight muscle tone of spastic cerebral palsy and the involuntary movements of athetoid cerebral palsy. This is caused by injury to both the pyramidal and extra pyramidal areas of the brain. Spasticity is usually the more obvious type, with the involuntary athetoid movements increasing when the child is between nine months and three years old. It usually takes months or years to notice the presence of mixed cerebral palsy more obvious.
The most common combination of mixed cerebral palsy involves both spasticity and athetoid movements, but other combinations are also possible. The least common mix is athetoid and ataxic cerebral palsy, however any mix of types may occur. It is possible to have a mix of all three types of cerebral palsy: spastic, athetoid and ataxic.
Mixed cerebral palsy with spastic and athetoid cerebral palsy is the most common type of mixed cerebral palsy, accounting for nearly 10 percent of mixed cerebral palsy cases. Spastic cerebral palsy causes one or more tight muscle groups, which limit movement in the patient. Children with spastic cerebral palsy have stiff and jerky movements. They often have trouble moving from one position to another and have a difficulty holding and letting go of objects.
Mixed cerebral palsy with athetoid characteristics are caused by damage to the cerebellum or basal ganglia. These areas of the brain are responsible for processing the signals that enable smooth, coordinated movements as well as maintaining body posture. Injury to these areas may cause a child to develop involuntary, purposeless movements, especially in the face, arms, and trunk.
Involuntary movement in missed cerebral palsy is not under the control of the brain. A "twitch" is a form of involuntary movement that everyone has experienced at some time. The movement is caused by electrical stimulation of the muscle, and in individuals with mixed cerebral palsy, the involuntary movement happens so often that it interferes with their ability to function.
The involuntary movements caused by mixed cerebral palsy often interfere with speaking, feeding, reaching, grasping, and other skills requiring coordinated movements. Involuntary grimacing and tongue thrusting may lead to swallowing problems, drooling, and slurred speech. The movements often increase during periods of emotional stress and disappear during sleep. In addition, children with mixed cerebral palsy often have low muscle tone and have problems maintaining posture for sitting and walking.
Mixed cerebral palsy can be difficult to treat in severe cases. While the early stages of childhood may not show signs of mixed cerebral palsy, frequent checkups will catch symptoms at their earliest. If you think your child is showing signs of mixed cerebral palsy you should contact your child's physician.