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New Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, the condition can be managed through a variety of therapies to help the child reach their maximum potential in growth and development. Even though there is still not a lot known about the origin and causes of cerebral palsy since its first documentation in 1861 by Dr. William Little, new treatments for cerebral palsy continue to break new ground and offer hope to the patients and families of this condition.

One of the new treatments for cerebral palsy is selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR). SDR is the only surgical procedure that can provide permanent reduction of spasticity in cerebral palsy. During the operation, the neurosurgeon divides each of the dorsal roots in the spine into 3-5 rootlets and stimulates each root electronically. By examining the electrical responses from muscles in the lower extremities, they can identify the rootlets that cause spasticity. The abnormal rootlets are cut, leaving the normal rootlets in tact. This reduces messages to the muscles, resulting in better balance of activities of nerve cells in the spinal cord, and reducing spasticity.

The advantages of SDR over other new treatments of cerebral palsy can be significant. There is a reduced risk of spinal deformities in the later years of life, and reduced hip flexor spasticity by sectioning the first lumbar dorsal root. It also boasts less intense back pain than other surgical procedures and earlier resumption of vigorous physical therapy.

Of all the new treatments for cerebral palsy, SDR has undergone more intense scientific scrutiny than any other surgical treatment. SDR is a long and complicated neurosurgical procedure and complications such as paralysis of the legs and bladder, impotence, and sensory loss may occur.

Another one of the new treatments for cerebral palsy is hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBO). HBO therapy is a medical treatment that uses the administration of 100% oxygen at controlled pressure for a time frame between 60 to 90 minutes. Although usually used to treat burns and difficult healing wounds, it is now realized as a new treatment for cerebral palsy. HBO therapy facilitates healing in these conditions by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood by up to 2000%, depending on the treatment depth. This in turn drastically increases the amount of oxygen at the cellular level.

With brain trauma, some brain cells become dormant due to lack of oxygen, usually caused by reduced blood flow related to swelling. HBO therapy has been shown to reduce swelling of brain tissue by constricting blood vessels. By the increase of the amount of oxygen at the cellular level, it is believed that dormant, oxygen starved brain cells are revived.

When treating cerebral palsy children, HBO treatment is administered for one hour and one or two treatments per day, for five or six days a week. Depending on each case, the total number of treatments will vary. It is quite common for 40 treatments to be administered during the first phase of treatment. After the first phase, the medical team involved in each case can resolve question of further HBO therapy.

Studies have proven that HBO therapy can dramatically improve the condition of a cerebral palsy patient. A study in Brazil revealed a 50% reduction in spasticity in 94% of a 224 patient study. Improvements have also been seen with vision, hearing, and speech; however, improvement will vary from patient to patient. Minor ear discomfort is the most common complaint related to HBO therapy. Similar to an airline passenger, the patient’s ears have to adjust to a change in pressure.

New treatments for cerebral palsy are being constantly tested and refined. With the help of a medical group you can determine if one of the new treatments of cerebral palsy can help your child. After all, the goal is achieving independence for your child and yourself.

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