Find out more about the condition, hemiplegia


What is hemiplegia?

Childhood hemiplegia (sometimes called hemiparesis) is a condition, similar to cerebral palsy, affecting one side of the body (Greek 'hemi' = half). We talk about a right or left hemiplegia depending on the side affected. It is caused by damage to some part of the brain, which may happen before, during or soon after birth, when it is known as congenital hemiplegia, or later in childhood, in which case it is called acquired hemiplegia. Generally, injury to the left side of the brain will cause a right hemiplegia and injury to the right side a left hemiplegia. The effects are similar to that of a stroke and it affects around one child in a 1,000.

How does hemiplegia occur?

The causes of congenital hemiplegia are mostly unknown, and usually parents only become aware of their child's hemiplegia gradually during his or her infancy. There is a higher risk in premature babies, and it is unclear whether a difficult birth may be an occasional factor. In most cases, however, the damage occurs during pregnancy, and researchers have as yet been unable to isolate any contributory factors – in other words, it would appear to be mostly a matter of chance.

Acquired hemiplegia results from damage to the brain during childhood. The most common cause is a stroke (when a bleed or blood clot damages part of the brain), but it can also result from an accident or infection.

What are the effects of hemiplegia?

It is difficult to generalise: hemiplegia affects each child differently. The most obvious result is a weakness or stiffness with poor hand function or mobility on the affected side. The weakness may be associated with spasticity (stiffness or tightness of the muscle). In one child this may be very obvious (he or she may have little use of one hand, may limp or have poor balance), in another child it will be so slight that it only shows when attempting specific physical activities.

Some children have additional medical problems such as epilepsy, visual field defects or speech difficulties. Other, less visible, difficulties are also known to be commonly associated with hemiplegia. These include perceptual problems, specific learning difficulties, poor concentration and emotional and behavioural problems. As the child grows these problems may become more frustrating and disabling than the more obvious physical ones.

More support can be found from HemiHelp

Submitted by Jonathan Furness on Mon, 2006-02-20 18:27.