Cerebral palsy treatment
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disability mainly affecting motor function, balance and coordination. As a result, some patients have seizures, intellectual impairment, and speech difficulties. Therefore, doctors actively use rehabilitation, conservative therapy and surgery to relieve the symptoms and adapt the patient to live with the condition.
Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders caused by the appearance of brain damage. First, this condition manifests as a violation of movements and balance and a change in body position.
Cerebral palsy ranks first in the prevalence of childhood disability. According to statistics, about 2 out of 1000 children have CP. Prematurely born children or newborns with small body weights are more susceptible to this disease. The condition is characterized not only by a violation of posture and movements but, in most cases, concomitant diseases are observed:
- Epilepsy (about 50% of people with cerebral palsy have this pathology).
- Vision problems (42% of children) include disagreement and loss of visual fields.
- Autistic spectrum disorder (7.5% of cases).
- Mental retardation, speech and hearing defects, impaired sensitivity.
Cerebral palsy is a condition:
- not genetic;
- not hereditary;
- not life-threatening.
The process leads to a slowdown in the formation of neural connections and anomalies in the brain vessels and affects several parts of the brain. As a result, neurologists distinguish several forms of cerebral palsy:
- The spastic form is the most common (75%), characterized by increased muscle tone (spasticity). Although humans can move around, this species can severely restrict mobility.
- Dyskinetic - the second most common form, means the appearance of involuntary movements of the limbs or face.
- Atactic is the least common form that affects the cerebellum, leading to impaired coordination, balance, and tremor.
- The mixed form occurs when several brain areas are damaged and cause symptoms characteristic of two or three types of cerebral palsy.
Doctors also describe cerebral palsy depending on which part of the body it affects:
- Monoplegia - is the defeat of only one limb, usually the hand.
- Hemiplegia is affected by one side of the body, right or left (leg and arm).
- Diplegia - damage one half of the body, upper (arms) or lower (legs).
- Quadriplegia - affected areas include both arms and legs.
What are the causes of cerebral palsy?
Most often, palsy is caused by a combination of harmful factors, such as:
- Gene mutations that lead to abnormal brain development;
- Premature birth or prematurity of the fetus;
- Low birth weight (less than 2500 grams);
- Asphyxia (brain oxygen deficiency);
- Infant head injury;
- Rh-conflict of mother and child (blood incompatibility);
- Maternal infections (flu, rubella, toxoplasmosis);
- The negative impact of the fetus on alcohol and drugs during pregnancy;
- Brain diseases under the age of 2 years (meningitis, encephalitis, jaundice, stroke).
Cerebral palsy symptoms
Each case of the disease is not like the other. Symptoms vary and depend on the area of brain damage.
- Symptoms of movement disorders: muscle spasm, lack of balance, tremors, involuntary body movements, lagging one part of the body in action, difficulty walking and fine motor skills.
- Signs of developmental disorders: speech delay, learning difficulties, developmental and growth retardation, late sitting and crawling.
- Other symptoms include hydrocephalus, seizures, abnormal eye movement, urinary incontinence and constipation, frequent behaviour changes, emotional disturbances, trouble swallowing, and excessive salivation.
Neurologists report that usually, symptoms are constant in severity and do not worsen with age.
Neurological tests and diagnosis of cerebral palsy
Usually, the problem of cerebral palsy is noticeable at birth. However, some signs become evident as the child gets older. In such cases, doctors can make a diagnosis several months after birth.
Physicians consider the history of pregnancy and childbirth to determine if there are aggravating factors for the appearance of cerebral palsy (infection, birth trauma, Rh conflict). The complex diagnostic options include active monitoring of the development of the child and neuroimaging methods for examining the brain. They often provide information about the cause of cerebral palsy and help determine the extent of brain damage. Imaging techniques are performed as soon as possible to start appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
MRI or CT of the head in this disease are the most revealing methods. MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce images. CT works with x-rays and ultra-sensitive detectors. The advantages of scanning are high image definition and a three-dimensional representation of brain structures. In addition, when conducting a CT scan, the doctor can detect not only haemorrhages or other conditions but also abnormalities in the development of the brain. Therefore, carrying out CT in cerebral palsy is more informative than using ultrasound. In addition, patients with severe disorders of muscle tone in the extremities undergo an MRI of the spinal cord.
Ultrasound of the head is a safe diagnostic method that uses sound waves to determine the structures of the brain and its anatomical lesions. Ultrasound may show haemorrhage (bleeding) or damage caused by asphyxia. Therefore, ultrasound is an alternative for children in whom CT or MRI is contraindicated.
If there are episodes of seizures or signs of autism, the doctor will prescribe an electroencephalogram. EEG makes it possible to detect epilepsy or exclude autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study may be necessary when initiating medical treatment in children with comorbidities.
Medics use X-rays as an additional examination method to detect curvature and deformation of the ridge or joints. Another supportive method is electromyography. EMG measures the speed of impulse conduction along the neural pathways. The EMG is a helpful technique doctors use to distinguish cerebral palsy from other neuromuscular disorders.
What treatment is available for cerebral palsy patients?
Treating people with cerebral palsy should be early, individual, comprehensive and long-term. Many patients, both children and adults, may require lifelong care. Unfortunately, no medicine can completely cure cerebral palsy. However, many treatment options improve the course of the disease, quality of life, and prognosis.
Drug therapy is used to relax the muscles; doctors prescribe relaxant pills or botox injections. It helps relieve stiffness and spasms.
Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, rehabilitation care is aimed at physical movement and improvement of coordination, vision, speech and intellectual development. Specialized rehabilitation centres use long-term physical, occupational, speech, and other methods. For example, occupational therapy improves motor skills and empowers the patient to self-care. The muscles become more robust, and the movements more flexible thanks to physiotherapy. In addition, the sense of balance is stabilized.
Stem cell therapy (SCT) is an innovative and promising treatment for cerebral palsy that can reduce the symptoms of brain damage. Stem cells have the unique capability to transform into other types of cells. When transplanting stem cells (intravenously or through a lumbar puncture into the spine), they can turn into neural cells and fill in the missing neural connections. This regenerative stem cell therapy improves the conduction of impulses to the muscles. Gradually, mobility, speech and other problems regress.
Doctors recommend surgery for children with severe mobility and serious muscle tension. In extreme cases, neurosurgeons may apply selective dorsal rhizotomy. It cuts nerve fibres to get rid of pain and relax the muscles.
The prognosis for cerebral palsy is difficult to determine. Much depends on the degree of brain damage and the treatment and subsequent rehabilitation. The course of the disease is characterized by gradual relief of symptoms. Almost 60% of children with cerebral palsy can walk independently. Many patients can usually master self-care and writing skills.
What treatment options are available for cerebral palsy?
The following options are available for the treatment of cerebral palsy: stem cells therapy (a modern method of restoring nerve connections), drug therapy (reduces symptoms), surgery (relieves spasticity), rehabilitation (adapts to life with such a diagnosis and improves movement skills, speech, etc.).
Is cerebral palsy curable?
Unfortunately, doctors are not able to cure cerebral palsy entirely. However, many therapies (restorative and symptomatic) help to cope with the disease.
Do stem cells help with cerebral palsy?
Studies have shown that transplanting stem cells into patients with cerebral palsy alleviates the symptoms of the disease and reduces brain damage.
Why do patients with cerebral palsy choose treatment abroad?
Abroad, specialized neurological and rehabilitation centres are widespread for accurate and rapid diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy. Such hospitals are equipped with all the necessary equipment for surgical intervention and the acquisition of uncontrolled functions.
Is rehabilitation the right solution for cerebral palsy?
Exactly yes. Rehabilitation of patients with cerebral palsy is an integral part of treatment. Rehabilitation consists of many components and is aimed at obtaining the necessary skills for the patient (correct swallowing, talking, buttoning, standing, brushing teeth). Long and diligent rehabilitation dramatically reduces the level of disability of patients.