Stability and decline in gross motor function among children and youth with cerebral palsy aged 2 to 21 years
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This paper reports the construction of gross motor development curves for children and youth with cerebral palsy (CP) in order to assess whether function is lost during adolescence. We followed children previously enrolled in a prospective longitudinal cohort study for an additional 4 years, as they entered adolescence and young adulthood. The resulting longitudinal dataset comprised 3455 observations of 657 children with CP (369 males, 288 females), assessed up to 10 times, at ages ranging from 16 months to 21 years. Motor function was assessed using the 66-item Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM-66). Participants were classified using the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS). We assessed the loss of function in adolescence by contrasting a model of function that assumes no loss with a model that allows for a peak and subsequent decline. We found no evidence of functional decline, on average, for children in GMFCS Levels I and II. However, in Levels III, IV, and V, average GMFM-66 was estimated to peak at ages 7 years 11 months, 6 years 11 months, and 6 years 11 months respectively, before declining by 4.7, 7.8, and 6.4 GMFM-66 points, in Levels III, IV, and V respectively, as these adolescents became young adults. We show that these declines are clinically significant.
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