Improvements in the treatment of cerebral palsy are becoming greater as science moves forward. While there are many types of treatment options available to children with cerebral palsy, three treatment procedures in particular have shown great promise: Botox injections, the Baclofen pump, and a surgical procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy or SDR.
Botox is the brand name for the Botulism toxin. Doctors use Botox to reduce muscle tightness, increase the ability of a muscle to stretch and to decrease likeliness of permanent muscle contracture. The toxin works by blocking nerve signals passing between the muscle and the spinal column.
Botulinum toxin is a potentially deadly poison. When used in extremely small doses it is relatively harmless, unless a person is allergic to the toxin. But for cerebral palsy patients, the benefits seem to far outweigh the risks.
Doctors inject Botox into 3 or 4 small muscle groups particularly affected by cerebral palsy. Injections provide measured relief from spastic muscles for around 3 months. Many cerebral palsy patients use the period of relief to work on muscles stretches and range of motion exercises. Botox is expensive though, and the effect of the treatment is only temporary.
The Baclofen pump is a surgically implanted pump filled with a drug used to reduce muscle spasticity. It is implanted in the lower abdomen and delivers the drug directly to the spinal cord by catheter. Baclofen treatment is known to be extremely effective for some people. Risks can include infection from surgery, seizures from overdose, and depressed breathing. Statistics indicate the pump is safe and rarely results in any serious complications.
Baclofen has been used orally to reduce muscle spasms for a long time. Doctors discovered the benefits of the drug were increased when applied directly to the nerves causing cerebral palsy symptoms. The pump also produces fewer side effects than when baclofen is taken orally. The benefits of reduced muscle tension increase the quality of life for many people with cerebral palsy.
Selective dorsal rhizotomy works best for cerebral palsy patients with spastic diplegia. Selective dorsal rhizotomy is a surgery that reduces muscle stiffness and spasticity in the legs. Nerves affecting muscles with symptoms of cerebral palsy are severed to reduce spasticity.
Benefits vary from patient to patient, and are most prevalent for children under the age of 4. Selective dorsal rhizotomy is different from other cerebral palsy treatments because the benefits are usually lifelong, rather than temporary. Gains in movement allow increased abilities in walking, breathing, sitting up, bending at the waist, hand use and head control. Risks center on the surgery itself, not later side effects.