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Our researchers have helped unravel the causes of cerebral palsy, relying heavily on data from one of the longest-standing cerebral palsy registers in the world, the WA Cerebral Palsy Register.

This register was started in 1977 to monitor incidence of the condition, enable research into the causes and assist in the planning of services. It recorded cases of cerebral palsy for people born or living in WA from 1956 onwards. And it has now been incorporated into the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies.

Analysis of our register data changed the thinking of what causes cerebral palsy and enabled research focus to shift away from the birth process and into earlier periods of pregnancy. The WA register also influenced national data on the cerebral palsies and good data are now available in almost all states and territories.

Importantly, our researchers used the register data to show that cerebral palsy is not only the result of birth trauma and lack of oxygen supply. They found that greater intervention at birth, such as performing more caesarean sections, was not reducing the birth prevalence of cerebral palsy, as had been anticipated by obstetricians.

Work continues to investigate many possible causal factors, including neuronal migration disorders, genetic syndromes, genetic propensities, teratogens (agents that can cause malformation of an embryo), multiple pregnancy, inflammation, thrombotic disorders, intra-uterine strokes, infections and head trauma after birth.

Cerebral Palsy Respiratory Health

Cerebral palsy is not a respiratory disease like cystic fibrosis or asthma, and many children and adults with cerebral palsy live their lives without serious respiratory disease. But some children and adults with cerebral palsy can develop respiratory disease that becomes life-threatening and requires hospital admission.

Our goal is to improve respiratory health and quality of life for children with CP at risk of respiratory illness.

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