If you’re the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you need to know you’re not alone. Cerebral palsy is not a new or even rare medical condition. CP is the most common motor disability in children and the Centers for Disease Control reports about 1 in 323 children have some form of CP.
While this diagnosis can be disheartening for a parent to hear, it doesn’t mean your child will suffer a horrible life. Many people with CP go on to do great and wonderful things to benefit our society. However, setting your child on the right road to successfully managing their CP takes a careful combination of emotional support and medical treatments. There are many options available to improve your child’s quality of life.
Conventional cerebral palsy treatments are medical options that have been approved and practiced by the medical communities for decades. Understanding all your options is the best way to create a plan that sets your little one on the road to future success. This includes your legal options. CP causes are often linked to birth injuries during delivery or medical negligence. A skilled birth injury attorney can support you in making the best decisions for your family’s future, as well as secure compensation for your pain and suffering.
Basic Conventional CP Treatment
While there is no known cure for cerebral palsy, many treatment options are available to provide those with CP a more comfortable life. After your child receives their diagnosis, your primary care physician will refer you to see many specialists in order to better develop your child’s care plan.
Children’s needs change as they grow – of course, this is just as true for children with cerebral palsy as those without this diagnosis. Spastic, Athetoid and Mixed CP patients benefit from these four therapies:
From birth to age 4, physical therapy assists children with CP in learning how to position and move their bodies, feed and self-soothe. At this level, learning is through play and many activities given as homework are fun and engaging for both parent and child.
Throughout the school years, physical therapy supports independent living skills, such as personal hygiene, play, socialization and adaptive equipment. Often the therapist’s focus is on prevention of posture and joint problems and developing positive lifelong habits. Your child may choose to play (and excel at) adaptive sports.
In adulthood, physical therapy sessions are aimed at helping the patient manage pain, conserve energy, better use adaptive equipment and use environmental modifications for independent living.
Where physical therapy is used for gross motor (or large muscle) movements, such as walking or standing, occupational therapy (OT) is largely used to address fine motor skills. OT helps in maintaining muscle tone and coordination of movements. It is used in conjunction with Botulinum injections to strengthen and stretch muscles.
Occupation therapy can improve a patient’s:
• sensory processing
• joint range
Speech delays are common in children with CP. In fact, a significant speech delay is often a sign your child has cerebral palsy. Dysarthria, a motor speech disorder characterized by slurred, choppy and slow speech, is common among children with CP. Speech therapy can assist children with CP in developing the muscles that control sound. Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices, such as the Touch to Chat app and an iPad, are viable tools for helping CP patients communicate with their caregivers and friends.
Those of us who are “normal” and ambulatory take for granted how incredibly frustrating seemingly simple tasks, such as eating and drinking, can be. Children with CP need a positive outlet to release these emotions, as well as learn behaviors that help both children and parents process the emotional challenges of cerebral palsy. Behavioral therapy does this through a combination of monitoring, creating a schedule of weekly activities, role playing and rewarding positive behavior choices.
Essentially cerebral palsy is related to brain injury (many times cerebral palsy is caused by brain injury during the birthing process). Surgery is one solution that attempts to resolve spasticity issues in patients with CP, including:
• Orthopedic surgical intervention designed to release or lengthen certain muscles and facilitate the fusion of vertebrae.
• Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) is currently the most successful surgical method to reduce spasticity. This technique involves severing nerve fibers in the spine that are connected to the offending muscle groups.
• Chronic Cerebellar Stimulation is a complicated neurosurgical technique that involves implanting electrodes directly onto the cerebellum. Some patients have even been able to leave their wheelchairs and walk after a CCS procedure.
• Stereotactic Neurosurgery uses MRI/CT imaging and involves removing small areas of damaged brain tissue in order to reduce spasticity tremors and deformities.
For each of these surgeries, risks include hemorrhaging and infection. Naturally, the decision to undergo surgery depends largely on your child’s individual CP diagnosis. Surgical intervention is irreversible, so the decision must come after your child’s mobility and spasticity issues have been thoroughly discussed with all members of your medical care team.
Another way to reduce the unintentional muscle movements that accompany cerebral palsy is by using certain pharmaceutical drugs. Spasticity is caused by damage to the portion of the brain that controls voluntary movements.
The area of the brain that controls gross and fine motor movement is found in the cerebral cortex. If this portion of the brain is damaged, it can affect how nerve impulses from the brain are carried along the spinal cord and through the nervous system to the muscles and tendons. By interrupting certain receptors of the nervous system, spasticity can be minimized and controlled.
Muscle relaxants and anti-seizure medications are commonly prescribed to children with CP. The exact medication and dosage recommendations will be made by your primary care physician or specialist and greatly depend on the cerebral palsy type and severity.
The three medications most often used to control spasticity are diazepam (a general relaxant for the brain and body), baclofen (blocks signals from the spinal cord to the muscles), and dantrolene (interferes with the signals for muscle contractions).
Athetoid cerebral palsy drug therapies include anticholinergics, which reduce uncontrollable movements by blocking the neurotransmitters that control signals sent from the central nervous system to the brain.
Often issues with swallowing prevent patients from receiving medications orally, and therefore a pump must be used to administer the medication. Talk with your entire care team about how and when to give medication to your child. Additionally, the FDA website is an excellent source for learning about the benefits and side effects of specific drugs and medical devices.
Despite their benefits, it’s important to remember that these drugs carry significant side effects. For example, dantrolene may cause serious liver damage and jaundice in your child. Always discuss possible long-term consequences of drug therapies with your care team.
Kids with cerebral palsy have challenges with muscle tone, movement and motor skills. They may suffer from gastrointestinal reflux (GERD) and constipation. Because many children with CP also have issues with chewing and swallowing, malnutrition risk is high.
Children with CP benefit from a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorous to support developing bones. Magnesium, copper and zinc contribute to muscle growth as well as support the immune system.
Supplements can help ensure your child gets the proper amount of vitamins and minerals to strengthen their growing bodies. Children with swallowing issues can benefit from adding thickeners to food and beverages to help them eat safely. Tube feeding may be necessary to ensure your child maintains a healthy weight and diet.
How an Attorney Can Help
It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and parents of children with disabilities will attest to this as fact. We need the support of friends, family, doctors, teacher and sometimes attorneys. Often this condition is a result of a birth injury or medical negligence. When this is the case, the doctor and hospital should be held responsible.
The attorneys of Oshman & Mirisola, LLC have over 40 years’ experience in cerebral palsy cases. Relying on our years of experience, we can determine if your child’s birth injury could have been prevented with proper medical attention.
If your child suffers from cerebral palsy and you wish to bring legal action to compensate your child for their physical and emotional suffering, please contact us today at (800) 400-8182 or contact us online to speak with an attorney about your situation.