The Different Types of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

The Different Types of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Learning that your child has athetoid cerebral palsy (CP) can be devastating for most parents. This type of cerebral palsy results from brain damage, and children who have this condition might have hypertonia, which leads to muscle spasms and stiffness, and hypotonia, which is a low degree of muscle tone that causes floppiness. Children with athetoid cerebral palsy might also have trouble with muscle movements in the arms, legs, hands, and feet, causing problems with walking or holding objects. Infant injury law firms such as Raynes & Lawn represent families whose children suffered athetoid CP because of the negligence of doctors and other medical professionals during labor and delivery.

Athetoid CP Types

Athetoid CP can be further classified by the types of involuntary movements the condition causes. The different athetoid cerebral palsy types include the following:

  • Athetosis – slow, writhing motions in the face and fingers
  • Ataxia – Lack of coordination and balance
  • Chorea – Sudden, involuntary motions of the fingers/toes
  • Chorecathetoid – A combination of athetosis and chorea
  • Rigidity – Heightened muscle tone from hypertonia, leading to restricted movement

Athetoid cerebral palsy is sometimes called dyskinetic cerebral palsy because dyskinesia refers to involuntary movements in general.


Athetoid CP results from damage to the brain in infancy. The different types of cerebral palsy differ based on the damaged area of the brain. This condition can be caused by brain damage to the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, or both.

Damage to the Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia are nerves that coordinate voluntary movement and are located inside of the cerebral cortex, which helps to control motor function. These nerves also help to regulate cognitive functioning. If the basal ganglia are damaged, involuntary movements can result.

Damage to the Cerebellum

The cerebellum regulates the precision and coordination of movements for balance and fine motor skills. When it is damaged, the person might have balance and coordination problems. This structure also regulates cognitive functions, including attention and communication. Damage to the cerebellum can cause other disorders, including epilepsy or autism.

Damage to either of these brain regions can be caused by any of the following issues:

  • Brain trauma
  • Meningitis or other infections
  • Oxygen deprivation to the brain

The risks of brain injuries resulting in athetoid cerebral palsy include preterm birth, blood clots in the placenta, and severe jaundice.

Athetoid CP Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition will vary, depending on its severity. The symptoms can also vary from day to day. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:

  • Tremors
  • Twisted torso
  • Slow, writhing movements
  • Postural problems
  • Lack of balance
  • Floppy muscles
  • Tense muscles
  • Drooling or grimacing
  • Sudden movements

The symptoms will depend on whether the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, or both were damaged. If damage occurred to both areas, the child is likelier to have problems with coordination and balance. Typically, parents will begin to see the symptoms of athetoid CP when their child reaches around 9 months of age. In young children, unusual movements can indicate a developmental delay, but they don’t necessarily indicate a child has cerebral palsy.

A child who has this type of cerebral palsy might show the following signs:

  • Lack of kicking
  • Rigidity or stiffness
  • Floppiness
  • Can’t hold up the head by three months of age
  • Lack of smiling by three months of age
  • Lack of reaching for objects
  • Can’t roll over

Treatments for Athetoid CP

There isn’t a cure for athetoid cerebral palsy, but children can still live meaningful lives as adults. Treatments are typically focused on helping children become more confident and independent. A child might need therapies such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy to improve their functioning while helping to prevent potential complications.

Speech Therapy

Breathing, eating, and speaking can all be difficult for children with athetoid cerebral palsy. Speech therapy addresses these types of issues and helps to increase the development of vocabulary. A speech therapist will work to increase the child’s language development, breathing control, and speech articulation. Working with a speech therapist often helps children with cerebral palsy gain better control over the muscles of their tongue and face.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists work to improve a child’s independence and ability to learn. In occupational therapy, the therapist will work with the child to help with daily tasks, including writing, grasping objects, or using assistive devices. The occupational therapist might help the child perform stretching exercises using resistance equipment and weights while also using fun activities to maintain the child’s interest.

Physical Therapy

In physical therapy, the physical therapist will work with a child to improve their muscular strength using machines and resistance bands. Physical therapists also continue working with adults who have cerebral palsy to help them address sensory problems that can make it more difficult to move. Physical therapy is focused on improving a person’s overall mobility.


Medication might be prescribed to treat related conditions caused by brain damage. For example, if a child with athetoid cerebral palsy also develops epilepsy, they might be prescribed anticonvulsants to control seizures. Children who have weak stomach and esophageal muscles might be prescribed medications for acid reflux.

Surgical Intervention

Some children with athetoid cerebral palsy might undergo surgery to correct the alignment of tendons, muscles, and joints. Surgery might be used to correct dislocations and deformities resulting from a high muscle tone.

How Do I Find Birth Injury Lawyers Near Me?

If you live in Pennsylvania, you should talk to a Philadelphia Cerebral Palsy lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. We represent families whose children have been diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy caused by negligence during the labor and delivery process. To learn whether you have a viable case, call us today to schedule a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.




For the general public:  This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.


For attorneys:  This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients.  Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.