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Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is occasionally referred to as athetoid cerebral palsy. One form of dyskinetic cerebral palsy may display as twisting, writhing, or repetitive movement. Other cases of dyskinetic cerebral palsy may develop slow, floppy movements. All forms of dyskinetic cerebral palsy cause extreme involuntary movement as a result of damage to the cerebellum or basal ganglia within the brain. The basal ganglia act as the switchboard for signals sent between the brain and the spinal cord.

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Risk Factors of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Research is contradictory on the exact causes of dyskinetic cerebral palsy. One study found that 67% of the 116 evaluated dyskinetic cerebral palsy cases arose during the perinatal period. The perinatal period is the period directly around birth, up to 5 months prior to delivery and 1 month after delivery. Another study found that fewer than 10% of dyskinetic cerebral palsy cases occurred during the perinatal period. In both studies, prenatal complications were more likely to result in dyskinetic cerebral palsy than postnatal difficulties. Research also suggests that cases of dyskinetic cerebral palsy are increasing in newborns with normal birth weight.

Risk factors of dyskinetic cerebral palsy include:

  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Problems during birth, such as newborn asphyxia
  • Multiple births, such as twins, triplets, or more
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Birth defects, such as issues with the brain, spinal cord, lungs, or metabolism
  • Infections, seizure disorders, or thyroid disorders in the mother during pregnancy
  • In rarer cases, postnatal brain damage from infection, head injury, bleeding, or lack of oxygen

Types of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is typically classified in one of two major categories:


This type of dyskinetic cerebral palsy usually affects the arms, hands, feet, or legs. Athetoid cerebral palsy can also affect the face and tongue. The abnormal movements in this form of dyskinetic cerebral palsy are big or small. They may be sudden, jerky, slow, or irregularly repetitive. These involuntary movements often increase during periods of emotional stress.


This type of dyskinetic cerebral palsy is characterized by random, twisting motions when the person tries to move. The involuntary movements may be painful. Abnormal motion may be quick or slow and repetitive or continuous. The affected area in this form of dyskinetic cerebral palsy may be designated to one body part, or “focal” point. Dystonic cerebral palsy may also be “general,” where the entire body is affected.

Symptoms of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Symptoms in this type of dyskinetic cerebral palsy are continuously evident while the patient is awake. During sleep, or when the person is completely relaxed and unemotionally stimulated, symptoms tend to disappear. The patient’s muscles frequently shift between severe, clenched positions and floppy, non-tense states. This creates the sudden involuntary movements of athetoid cerebral palsy. Symptoms may be worse when combined with vision or hearing impairments.

Symptoms of athetoid cerebral palsy include:

  • Poor speech intelligibility
  • Inability to hold their body upright when sitting or walking
  • Lots of facial movements, resulting in grimacing or drooling
  • Difficulty holding onto objects

Symptoms of Dystonic Cerebral Palsy

The signs of dystonic cerebral palsy focus generally on twisting motions. These abnormal movements result from the inability of the person to control neuromuscular signals. This form of dyskinetic cerebral palsy involves rigid muscle tension, or hypertonia, and small amounts of involuntary motion, or hypokinesia. Symptoms may be worse when combined with visual or hearing impairments.

Symptoms of dystonic cerebral palsy involve:

  • Involuntary twisting movements
  • Continuous or repetitive motion
  • Pain during abnormal movements
  • May be focused on one body part, or one side of the body
  • May affect entire body
  • May develop “sensory tricks,” such as placing finger on chin or face, to help calm unwanted movements



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Roulet-Perez, Eliane, et al. “Visual Impairment due to a Diskinetic Eye Movement Disorder in Children with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy / Jan Et Al. Reply.”Developmental medicine and child neurology 44.5 (2002): 356,7; author reply 357. ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source.Web. 27 June 2012.