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Making strides in cerebral palsy research

Shriners Hospitals for Children has been a leader in clinical research for decades. Our research has translated into treatment protocols that have been adopted worldwide. To see our research in action please visit our Research page.

Many orthopaedic techniques that are common in health care today were first discovered and practiced at Shriners Hospitals for Children. Research teams include renowned experts whose discoveries have changed treatment methodologies and improved the lives of countless children living with debilitating conditions.

Research in Spokane

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Spokane has an active research program, averaging 15 to 18 studies at a time. Researchers focus on a variety of topics important to pediatric orthopaedics, including clubfoot, orthopaedic surgery infection risk and gait issues in patients with cerebral palsy (CP). Our studies not only contribute to the general understanding of pediatric orthopaedic conditions but also help our physicians provide parents with information about treatment and outcome expectations.

Improving cerebral palsy care

The Movement Analysis Laboratory has a long history of research and publications facilitated by Mark McMulkin, Ph.D., director of the program, involving patients with ambulatory CP. One recent study looked at one of the thigh muscles that make up the quadriceps, the rectus femoris muscle.

This muscle helps extend the knee by lifting the lower leg. In a child with CP, this muscle may not work the way it should, so the child can have a hard time walking. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Spokane physicians are trying to help improve the way a child with CP moves by transferring where this muscle

attaches to the knee. The site of the transfer is not the same in all children because some surgeons may differ on what they consider to be the best relocation site for the muscle.

Physicians who perform this type of surgery collaborated with Dr. McMulkin and reviewed the patient records and gait analysis data of children who had a rectus femoris transfer to see if there were any differences in the way the children walked after surgery, depending on the transfer site. After analyzing the data, the research team concluded that the children’s gait improved and that there were no differences among the different transfer sites. This means the transfer site can be based on the patient’s history, other surgical procedures the patient is undergoing at the same time and surgeon preference. This is only one example of many ongoing studies at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Spokane. We initiate these studies to continuously improve our understanding of pediatric orthopaedics and improve the care we provide.