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Pediatr Neurol. 2017 Nov;76:66-71. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2017.08.002. Epub 2017 Aug 30.

Implementation of Early Diagnosis and Intervention Guidelines for Cerebral Palsy in a High-Risk Infant Follow-Up Clinic.

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Cerebral Palsy Foundation, New York, New York.
Department of Pediatrics, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.
Department of Pediatrics, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. Electronic address:



Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood, and is mostly diagnosed after age 2 years. Delays in diagnosis can have negative long-term consequences for children and parents. New guidelines for early cerebral palsy diagnosis and intervention were recently published, after systematic review of the evidence by international multidisciplinary experts aiming to decrease age at diagnosis. The current study tested the feasibility of implementing these guidelines in an American clinical setting.


We designed a stepwise implementation process in a neonatal intensive care follow-up clinic. Efficacy was tested by comparing 10-month pre- and post-implementation periods. Clinic visit types, cerebral palsy diagnosis, provider competencies and perspectives, and balancing measures were analyzed.


Changes to infrastructure, assessments, scheduling algorithms, documentation and supports in diagnosis or counseling were successfully implemented. Number of three- to four-month screening visits increased (255 to 499, P < 0.001); mean age at diagnosis decreased (18 to 13 months, P < 0.001). Clinic team awareness of early diagnosis and interventions increased (P < 0.001). There was no decrease in family satisfaction with overall clinic function. Opportunities for improvements included documentation for transitioning patients, generalizabilty across hospital clinics, systematic identification of high-risk status during hospitalization, and need for cerebral palsy care guidelines for infants under age 2 years.


We demonstrated for the first time in a US clinical setting the feasibility of implementation of international early diagnosis and treatment guidelines for cerebral palsy. This process is adaptable to other settings and underscores the necessity of future research on cerebral palsy treatments in infancy.


cerebral palsy; diagnosis; early intervention; infant

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