The life expectancy of children with idiopathic cerebral palsy born during 1966-84 to mothers resident in Mersey region has been analysed at the Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool, UK. Among 1251 subjects traced, one third had quadriplegia, one third hemiplegia, a quarter had diplegia, and the remainder dyskinesia and ataxia. A quarter had severe ambulatory disability, a fifth severe manual disability, and a third an IQ of 50 or less; 11% had died. One third had a birth weight of 2500 g or less, and one third a gestational age of 37 weeks or less. Those with normal birth weight had the highest proportion of severe disabilities. About 85-90% of subjects with CP survived to 20 years compared to 97% 20 year survival in the general population in 1970-2. Subjects with mild functional disabilities (ambulation, manual dexterity, and IQ deficits) had 20 year survival of 99%, while those severely disabled had a 50% 20 year survival. Birth weight and gestational age were less predictive of survival than functional disability. [1]

COMMENT. One-half of severely disabled cerebral palsied children survived to age 20, and the life expectancy to 20 years of mild to moderately disabled children was not much lower than that of unaffected children. As more severely affected low birth weight infants survive with advances in neonatal care, future cohorts may show a higher proportion of severely disabled with CP and a life expectancy approaching that of the normal birth weight CP children. The social, educational, health service, and medico-legal aspects of these findings are noted. A much shorter life expectancy is reported in US studies.