Cerebral Palsy Treatments
Cerebral palsy is a chronic disability that becomes apparent during infancy or childhood, affecting movement, balance and posture. Cerebral palsy treatment may include various types of therapy, medication and/or surgery. These treatments may ease spasticity (stiffness), seizures and other involuntary movements, minimize or prevent musculoskeletal deformities, improve language and communication skills and increase gross and fine motor skills. Fortunately, with treatment most children see significant improvements.
Cerebral palsy is sometimes caused by medical negligence or malpractice. It is difficult for parents alone to determine if their child's cerebral palsy is the result of a medical error. However, a lawyer specializing in birth injuries can work with experienced medical experts to identify the cause. If your child has cerebral palsy, contact a birth injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and determine your chances of receiving compensation to help with medical bills and other expenses related to your child's condition.
Managing Cerebral Palsy Symptoms
Cerebral palsy treatment varies based on a child's individual needs. Treatment can help manage symptoms but cannot cure the underlying condition. Though cerebral palsy is not a progressive disorder, the condition lasts a lifetime and cerebral palsy symptoms can change over time. You may wish to consult a personal injury lawyer to determine if a medical mistake caused your child's cerebral palsy and see if you can arrive at a settlement with those responsible bad filing a claim for a bad injury.
An interdisciplinary team of specialists (e.g., orthopedic surgeons, pediatricians, dentists, orthotists, rehabilitation therapists, psychologists, special education teachers and social workers) is involved in all phases of planning, decision making and treatment. The ultimate goal is to usher each child into adulthood with as much independence as possible. A comprehensive cerebral palsy treatment plan may include some or all of the elements discussed below.
Physical Therapy. Physical therapists work with the child on returning mobility to the large muscle groups (namely the arms, legs and trunk) in an effort to optimize musculoskeletal health and improve movement, balance and posture. Depending on the severity of symptoms, children may need to learn to use a wheelchair, sit, walk, climb stairs, and perform other gross motor functions. Physical therapists also stretch spastic muscles to prevent contractures and strengthen underlying muscles to prevent weaknesses and/or deterioration. The use of orthotics, braces and other equipment can further assist the goals of physical therapy.
Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapists focus on the small muscle groups to enhance fine motor and self-care skills. Many children are ultimately able to perform activities in the home such as feeding, dressing, eating, grooming and dental care. In addition, children work on skills that will help them in school such as writing, drawing and using scissors. Alternative strategies and/or supportive equipment can further the goals of occupational therapy.
Speech and Language Therapy. Speech and language therapists work on communication skills, including both the child's outward expression and his ability to understand others. Many children gain more control over their jaw and mouth and improve their ability to eat and speak. Children who cannot speak may be taught to use sign language or to operate a computer or other communicative device that can "talk" for them.
Counseling and Behavioral Therapy. Psychologists and social workers may be called upon to help children cope emotionally with cerebral palsy.
Oral Medications. There are several types of medications that can alleviate symptoms of cerebral palsy and prevent complications (e.g., contractures).
- Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium) and muscle relaxants (e.g., baclofen) may relax tight muscles and reduce spasms.
- Anticonvulsants (e.g., Depakote) can stem seizures.
- Anticholinergics (e.g., Artane) may reduce tremors and drooling.
- Dopamine Prodrugs (e.g., Sinemet) may reduce some of the awkward movements seen in patients with dystonia.*
These medications are probably best for children with mild symptoms or widespread spasticity.
Injected Medications. Alcohol washes and Botulinum A (Botox) are two common types of injected cerebral palsy medications. If an alcohol wash is recommended, alcohol is injected into stiff muscles to reduce spasticity. The effect can last for a few months to a few years, but carries a significant risk of pain or numbness and should only be performed by a skilled clinician.
Botulinum A (Botox), a toxin, is locally injected into stiff muscles, reducing spasticity and increasing range of motion. This is becoming a treatment of choice as it appears to be more effective and has fewer side effects than oral medications. The effect, however, is temporary, usually lasting three to four months.
Surgical Intervention. When a child has contractures or deformities, surgery can be performed on the tendons, bones or joints to place their arms and legs in the right position and improve the ability to sit, stand or walk.
A newer procedure known as intrathecal baclofen is showing great promise for children with moderate to severe spasticity. During this procedure, a pump is placed under the skin of the abdomen and is connected to a catheter in the spinal cord to continuously deliver antispasmodic medication directly into the spinal cord fluid. This pump can be adjusted for timing and dosage even after the surgery. Intrathecal baclofen appears to be much more effective than oral baclofen in reducing stiffness and pain and improving sleep. The procedure carries a small but significant risk of infection and other complications.
Spinal cord surgery, originally developed for spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions, is now being performed on cerebral palsy patients. While the effectiveness of this surgery has yet to be proven in clinical studies, it is sometimes used to relax muscles and relieve pain in patients who have exhausted all other options.**
If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it may be the result of medical negligence. Contact a lawyer for birth negligence to evaluate your case and obtain information on seeking compensation, including examples of past cerebral palsy settlements.
** National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke