Cerebral palsy can be classified by the limbs involved or the type of movement disorder. Typically, the two are used together, e.g. “spastic quadriplegia”, for a person whose all four limbs are affected and the primary movement disorder is spasticity.
Bilateral cerebral palsy, or both sides of the body are involved. This is sometimes divided into:
Quadriplegia – all four limbs are affected, from quad meaning four and plegia meaning paralysis, or impaired ability to move.
Diplegia – two limbs are affected, from di meaning two. Although diplegia typically refers to someone whose legs are most involved, the arms may also be affected, but to a lesser degree.
Hemiplegia – from hemi, meaning half. This may also be referred to as unilateral cerebral palsy. Often, the arm is more affected than the leg.
Triplegia – three limbs are affected, from tri meaning three. Usually both legs and one arm are affected. Some clinicians will refer to this type of clinical picture as diplegia with a hemiplegic overlay.
Monoplegia – one limb is affected, from mono meaning one. This is the least common type of cerebral palsy.
Total body involvement – this term is used to describe a person who, in addition to the involvement of four limbs, has impairments in speech, vision or cognitive function.
People with cerebral palsy may have more than one movement disorder present. Typically, the type of cerebral palsy is described by the most prevalent movement disorder. The most common movement disorder in cerebral palsy is spasticity. A description of spasticity, along with the other movement disorders including athetosis, dystonia and hypotonia, can be found by clicking here.
One way to classify cerebral palsy is by their capacity for independent mobility. This system, called the Gross Motor Function Classification System, or GMFCS, describes five levels of mobility as the child grows. On the “What s CP/Types” on the last paragraph regarding classification, I would add a final sentence. View more information on the GMFCS, how it is used in treatment planning and what it can mean to patients and families: GMFCS - E&R Gross Motor Function Classification System >