Treatment Options for Patients With Cerebral Palsy are Dependent On Proper Diagnosis From Medical Community

kid on wheelchairCerebral palsy is detected straight from birth. Some of the symptoms are noticeable immediately, while others will take time to manifest. Either way, doctors should practice an early, accurate diagnosis based on these symptoms to treat the condition in an efficient manner.

Definition of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by brain damage that is created either during the embryo stage or after a troubled birth. This disorder affects movement, muscle tone, or posture. The troubled birth is caused by one of the following reasons:

  • Failing to detect low levels of oxygen
  • Failing to detect low blood levels through certain organs
  • Improperly using tools such as forceps during delivery
  • Failing to treat jaundice or other blood conditions

Other abnormal birth conditions that increase the chances of cerebral palsy that doctors should consider are:

  • Blood incompatibility between the mother and the child
  • Low birth weight
  • Multiple babies
  • Premature birth
  • Abnormal birth positions (breech)

Certain diseases or infections also allow for cerebral palsy to develop. Some of the infections include:

  • Rubella or German measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Herpes
  • Syphilis
  • Zika
Frequency of Diagnosis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral palsy is the most common disability in childhood. The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) has detected that one in every 323 United States children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Some of the reports based on populations from around the world show that for every 4,000 births, between 1.5 and 4 are diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Different Symptoms

Cerebral palsy manifests itself through a wide variety of symptoms and impairments. Each of these symptoms are treated by methods depending on the severity. The symptoms of cerebral palsy include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Involuntary movements
  • Ataxia, or lack of muscle coordination
  • Stiff muscles
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Varied muscle tone
  • Delayed or difficult speech development
  • Athetosis, or slow, writhing movements
  • Delayed developmental milestones
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating or sucking

Cerebral palsy affects either one preferred side or body part but can also affect the entire body.

When to Diagnose

Professionals should diagnose cerebral palsy, or at least consider it, either when the birth conditions occur or when the symptoms are observed. The symptoms can manifest right after birth or during the first months of the baby’s life. While the symptoms will not worsen over time, certain muscle conditions like rigidity and shortening may worsen if they are not treated immediately.

Diagnosis Methods

Doctors can diagnose cerebral palsy through different methods that target specific symptoms and deficiencies, as well as what exactly is causing the disorder. The tests can target brain abnormalities, seizures, genetic disorders or conditions, and additional senses. The diagnostic tests are:

  • Brain scans (cranial ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Genetic tests
  • Additional tests for conditions (vision, speech, hearing, intellectual, development)
Different Treatments

The treatments for cerebral palsy depend on the specific symptoms and the severity of them. For instance, some children can walk with special equipment and physical therapy, while others are incapable of movement and require wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and rehabilitation are important and initiate during the first few years of life. These treatments improve certain conditions such as muscle strength, balance, or movement, and teach children basic skills. Other, related types of therapies include:

  • Occupational therapy (everyday activities)
  • Recreational therapy (sports, art programs, cultural activities)
  • Speech and language therapy (communication, speech, swallowing)
Devices and Technologies

Several devices and machines can improve aspects of cerebral palsy patients, from movement and posture to communication and everyday tasks. These assistive devices and technology are the following:

  • Orthotic devices (braces, splints, casts)
  • Wheelchairs
  • Rolling walkers
  • Powered scooters
  • Communication computers
  • Velcro-fastened shoes
  • Crutches
Medication

Certain medications are recommended to treat seizures, relax stiff or overactive muscles, or reduce abnormal movement. Some medications are also used to treat drooling. Medications used for cerebral palsy symptoms include:

  • Botox injections
  • Valium
  • Dantrium
  • Gablofen
  • Robinul

Care is recommended when prescribing these medications, as they can have side effects on the child.

Surgery

When symptoms caused by spasticity are severe, surgical interference is possibly necessary to correct them. Some of the surgical treatments used to fix some abnormalities are:

  • Lengthening stiff or contracted muscles
  • Placing arms or legs in correct positions
  • Correcting a curved or malformed spine
  • Cutting nerves to treat abnormal movements

The specialists should carefully test the patient’s movements and body features before deciding on surgical treatments.

Become Involved

Parents and medical providers should work together to look for symptoms of cerebral palsy as soon as possible and determine the treatment options. A fast, accurate diagnosis can lead to the correct treatments and therapies for the child.