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Parental Perspectives on Diagnosis and Prognosis of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Graduates with Cerebral Palsy

Journal title
The Journal of pediatrics
Publication year
Guttmann, K.; Flibotte, J.; DeMauro, S. B.

OBJECTIVES: To describe how parents of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) graduates with cerebral palsy (CP) perceive both the accuracy of prognoses provided in the NICU and the timing of their child’s diagnosis of CP, and to assess the influence of functional outcome on these perceptions. STUDY DESIGN: We surveyed parents of NICU graduates with CP about timing and benefit of diagnosis, accuracy of prognosis, and functional abilities of their children. After piloting and validation, CP parent support groups circulated the survey on social media, websites, and email lists. Bivariate relationships between categorical responses to survey questions were assessed with the chi(2) test, and multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify independent factors associated with perceptions about the timing of diagnosis. RESULTS: Parents of 463 children were included. Two-thirds (67%) of the children were diagnosed with CP before age 2 years, yet 40% of the respondents felt that diagnosis was made late, and only 11% categorized diagnosis as early. More than one-half (59%) perceived a benefit to diagnosis. There was a significant association between earlier age at diagnosis and greater functional limitations; 24% of parents who recalled being given a prognosis reported that their child functioned as predicted, and 46% reported that their child exceeded expectations. Parents were more likely to believe that children with fewer functional limitations had exceeded expectations. CONCLUSION: Parents remember prognostic discussions about children who develop CP as underestimating functional outcome. Diagnosis is rarely seen as early and is associated with benefits. These observations suggest that clinicians should aim to diagnose CP early and to maintain guarded optimism about future outcomes. Tools for improved communication are urgently needed.

Research abstracts