Adults with cerebral palsy twice as likely to develop heart and lung diseases, research suggests

People with cerebral palsy are twice as likely to develop heart and lung diseases, a new study has revealed.

The finding forms part of a major new study published by Brunel University London and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

The research compared the health profiles of some 1,700 adults with cerebral palsy against 5,000 adults without the condition to uncover specific health risks, such as asthma and stroke.

While the study found that adults with cerebral palsy are no more likely to develop diabetes or cancer, they are 75 per cent more likely to have a chronic disease and twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or chronic respiratory disease.

Specifically, adults with cerebral palsy were 2.6 times more likely to develop heart failure, 5.5 times more likely to have a stroke, and 2.2 more likely to develop asthma.

The scientists also noted an increased risk of hypertension and ischaemic heart disease.

With most people with cerebral palsy now not only surviving into adulthood but expecting a near-normal life expectancy, the researchers said it is important that adults with the condition have access to specialist healthcare.

“Until recently, we did not know much about the consequences of ageing with cerebral palsy,” said study leader Dr Jennifer Ryan.

“Our findings highlight the need for further research into the management of non-communicable diseases in this population.

“Recent clinical guidelines for adults with cerebral palsy in the UK recommended that pathways need to be developed that allow adults with cerebral palsy access to a multidisciplinary team.”

Dr Ryan added that “being able to reach health professionals early, such as physiotherapists, orthopaedic surgeons and neurologists with knowledge of cerebral palsy, may slow deterioration and prevent them from getting secondary conditions”.

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