Botox Considered as a New Therapy for Cerebral Palsy Patients

Botox SyringeWhen most people think of Botox, they generally consider it a cosmetic procedure for reducing the appearance of wrinkles. However, Botox injections could be a valuable treatment for some people with cerebral palsy. Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia ran a story about the use of Botox injections at Monash Medical Centre to help children with muscle development issues. When combined with occupational therapy, Botox injections appear to be a valuable treatment option for children with cerebral palsy.

Improving Muscle Function

A Botox injection blocks chemical messages from the brain to the injection site. Many children with cerebral palsy suffer from muscle rigidity, joint stiffness, and limited range of motion. The injections make muscles in the targeted area more pliable, offering the child the opportunity to engage in play and practice fine motor skills that would otherwise be too difficult. Ultimately, Botox injections can help children with cerebral palsy use and strengthen muscles they would be otherwise unable to use.

One inspiring success story from the Monash Medical Centre in Australia is Dakota Delia, a six-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy. The condition affects Dakota’s right leg and right arm most prominently, making it difficult for her to walk and perform fine motor functions at school. After four years of Botox injections combined with physical and occupational therapy, Dakota now performs on par with her peers in school and even started a jazz ballet class.

Muscular atrophy is a distinct concern for parents of children with cerebral palsy. If a child has difficulty moving a set of muscles or experiences pain while doing so, he or she may start to involuntarily limit movement of those muscles. Over time, this causes the muscles to lose their elastic properties. As growing children’s bones increase in size and mass, their muscles struggle to keep up and may remain short, unable to straighten properly without medical intervention.

How Does a Botox Injection Work?

Botox is the medical term for a drug derived from a toxic substance: botulinum toxin A. Bacteria produce this toxin and it can produce a fatal form of food poisoning known as botulism. However, when appropriately applied in a medical capacity this same substance has potential benefits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States approved Botox for various medical uses in 1989, including overactive bladder issues, urinary incontinence, migraines, and a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. In cosmetic treatment, Botox can reduce sweating and minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

Botox works by paralyzing specific muscle groups or preventing clusters of nerves from firing. These effects wear off rather quickly and result in relaxation and decreased pain in the injection site along with several other possible effects. It is important to note that the FDA has not specifically approved Botox for lower limb spasticity in children with cerebral palsy, but this is the most common form of Botox treatment administered to children with these symptoms. Doctors must use good judgment and professional discretion to determine if Botox injections are an appropriate course of treatment.

If a doctor determines that a child with cerebral palsy could benefit from Botox injections, the doctor may administer injections to specific muscle groups throughout the body to reduce spasms and relax muscles to properly position them. Over time, Botox injections can help avoid surgeries meant for muscle correction and improve the functions of the limbs and joints with minimal invasiveness.

Possible Risks and Benefits of Botox for Cerebral Palsy

Botox is a derivative of a potentially hazardous toxin, so any Botox procedure is not without risks. For example, it is possible, however unlikely, that the toxin in Botox could spread to other parts of the body beyond the injection site and cause symptoms of botulism. Symptoms may appear within hours or weeks after an injection, and children who receive Botox injections for lower limb spasticity face the highest degree of risk. Other less severe side effects including limb weakness, general feelings of weakness, pain at the injection site, and localized infections at injection sites are also possible.

Parents of children with cerebral palsy considering Botox treatment should remember that these treatments only provide temporary effects; Botox cannot cure any of the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy. However, research shows that consistent treatment over time can have several long-term benefits. Children who received Botox injections over a period of two years still displayed the same levels of high tonicity but reported better gross motor function and improved range of motion.

Anyone thinking about Botox treatment for a child with cerebral palsy must carefully weigh the potential risks and benefits and remember that treatments may only offer temporary relief. However, in combination with other therapies and medical treatments, Botox injections could offer children with cerebral palsy relief from the symptoms of lower limb spasticity, muscle tonicity, and the limited range of motion that cerebral palsy often causes.