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Hemiplegia Definition and Information

  • Published: 2012-01-24 (Rev. 2015-02-12) - Contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Hemiplegia is a condition which affects one side of the body only - hemi comes from the Greek word meaning half.

Definition: Hemiplegia

The inability to move a group of muscles in one side of the body. When hemiplegia is caused by a stroke, it often involves muscles in the face, arms and legs.

Main Document

"Childhood hemiplegia (sometimes called hemiparesis) is a condition affecting one side of the body."

Hemiplegia results in severe or complete loss of motor function on one side of the body; this condition is usually caused by brain diseases that are localized to the cerebral hemisphere opposite to the side of weakness; less frequently, brain stem lesions; cervical spinal cord diseases, peripheral nervous system diseases, and other conditions may manifest as hemiplegia.

Alternating Hemiplegia:

Alternating hemiplegia is a rare neurological disorder that develops in childhood, most often before the child is 18 months old. The disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of paralysis that involve one or both sides of the body, multiple limbs, or a single limb. The paralysis may affect different parts of the body at different times and may be brief or last for several days. Oftentimes these episodes will resolve after sleep. Affected children may also have abnormal movements involving stiffening or "dance-like" movements of a limb, as well as walking and balance problems. Some children have seizures. Children may have normal or delayed development. There are both benign and more serious forms of the disorder. Most children do not have a family history of the disorder; however, recent studies have show that some children with a family history have mutations in the genes CACNA1A, SCN1A, and ATP1A2. Mutations in the ATP1A2 gene have previously been associated with families affect by familial hemiplegic migraine. (

Childhood Hemiplegia:

Childhood hemiplegia (sometimes called hemiparesis) is a condition affecting one side of the body. We talk about a right or left hemiplegia, depending on the side affected. It is caused by damage to some part of the brain, which may happen before, during or soon after birth, when it is known as congenital hemiplegia, or later in childhood, in which case it is called acquired hemiplegia. Generally, injury to the left side of the brain will cause a right hemiplegia and injury to the right side a left hemiplegia. Childhood hemiplegia is a relatively common condition, affecting up to one child in 1,000. (

The symptoms of Spastic Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy may differ from child to child and over time.

Symptoms may include:

  • Seizures.
  • Difficulty with walking and balance.
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing or using scissors.
  • Stiffness and weakness in muscles on one side of the body.
  • About one fourth of children with spastic hemiplegia may have an IQ below 70.
  • Delay in reaching expected developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or smiling.

Children with the benign form of alternating hemiplegia have a good prognosis. Those who experience the more severe form have a poor prognosis because intellectual and mental capacities do not respond to drug therapy, and balance and gait problems continue. Over time, walking unassisted becomes difficult or impossible.


  1. What is Paraplegia - Paraplegic Facts and Definition - Disabled World - (2010-10-09)
  2. What is Quadriplegia - Quadriplegic Facts and Definition - Facts and definition regarding Quadriplegia a four limb paralysis also known as Tetraplegia Persons having Quadriplegia are referred to as quadriplegics.
  3. Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) - Facts and Information - Thomas C. Weiss - (2010-04-15)


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