Spastic Quadriplegia - Causes


Spastic quadriplegia is generally caused by brain damage or disruptions in normal brain development preceding birth. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are four types of brain damage that can cause spastic quadriplegia. These include, damage to the white matter (periventricular leukomalacia), abnormal brain development (cerebral dysgenesis), bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), and brain damage due to lack of oxygen (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or intrapartum asphyxia).

The white matter of the brain is especially vulnerable between the 26th and 34th weeks of maturation, and damage to the white matter can interfere with the brain’s ability to transmit signals to the rest of the body. Spastic quadriplegia can be caused by a condition known as periventricular leukomalacia which results in the formation of lesions and holes in the white matter of the brain.

Prior to the 26th week of maturation, the fetal brain is particularly susceptible to various toxins whose effects can ultimately hinder normal development. Exposure of the brain to infectious agents is especially dangerous because they can trigger immune responses that activate cytokines and lead to inflammation of the brain. Some infections that have been linked to the development of spastic quadriplegia include meningitis, herpes, rubella, and encephalitis. A difference in blood types between the mother and the fetus can also initiate a problematic immune response and cause brain damage. Severe jaundice, can also lead to brain damage and spastic quadriplegia due to a buildup of bilirubin in the blood.

Bleeding in the brain caused by fetal strokes, blood clots, weak and malformed blood vessels, or high maternal blood pressure may also lead to brain damage causing spastic quadriplegia. Maternal infection, most specifically pelvic inflammatory disease, has been shown to increase the risk of fetal stroke.

Hypoxia, lack of oxygen to the brain, can also cause damage in the cerebral motor cortex and other brain regions. This lack of oxygen can be the result of placenta malfunction, womb rupture, umbilical cord damage, low maternal blood pressure or asphyxia during labor and delivery.

Children who experienced many complications during birth, such as, prematurity, insufficient oxygen, low birthweight, aspiration, head injury, or bleeding in the brain have a greater risk of developing spastic quadriplegia. Children whose mothers were ill during the pregnancy or did not receive adequate nutrition are also more likely to develop the disease.

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