Why individuals with cerebral palsy are at higher risk for respiratory complications from COVID-19

Joline E. Brandenburg, Matthew J. Fogarty, Gary C. Sieck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Respiratory dysfunction is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP). In children and adults with CP, movement and physical function is always affected. Yet, many clinicians overlook potential for impaired movement and function of the diaphragm muscle (DIAm) in individuals with CP. Since individuals with pre-existing respiratory disorders are at greater risk for respiratory complications if they contract COVID-19, understanding potential risks to individuals with CP is important. In this review we present research on respiratory function and DIAm force generation in children with CP. We compare this clinical work to basic science research investigating phrenic motor neuron and DIAm motor unit dysfunction in an animal model with CP symptoms, the spa mouse. Finally, we integrate the clinical and basic science work in respiratory function in CP, discussing potential for individuals with CP to have severe respiratory symptoms from COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-327
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Diaphragm
  • cerebral palsy
  • motor neuron
  • respiratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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