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Comprehensive care for cerebral palsy

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a broad term that describes a range of neurological (brain) disorders. Children with CP may have damage to the brain or the brain may not have fully developed in some areas. This may or may not affect the child’s intelligence level. Cerebral palsy causes a disruption in standard communication between the brain and muscles, causing multiple motor function disorders. This is a lifelong condition that varies from patient to patient and ranges greatly in terms of severity.

Cerebral palsy directly impacts coordination, muscle tone and control, posture, reflexes, balance and the ability to move in a purposeful, self-directed way. This can make seemingly ordinary activities, like speaking, standing or sitting still, challenging. Some children may also develop secondary health conditions related to speech, vision, hearing, respiration or cognitive functioning.

Cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed by 18 months of age, but often delayed development (walking, talking, sitting, difficulty feeding, increased or decreased muscle tone) are recognized very early by the parent. Physicians will not definitively diagnose CP until later, as there can be other causes of these symptoms. There is not a test for CP.

While it's difficult to pinpoint every cause, infants and toddlers with CP tend to display some level of difficulty with muscle coordination. This may manifest as stiff muscles, exaggerated reflexes, stiff or floppy muscle tone, tremors or trouble with fine motor skills.

While symptoms do not worsen with age, early intervention is still critical as it gives children more time to begin learning how to maximize their abilities and navigate their life as independently as possible.

Shriners Hospitals for Children provides outstanding specialty care for children with all types of CP, from mild cases that require minimal intervention to more complex diagnoses that necessitate a wider range of support services.

What causes cerebral palsy?

The exact causes of CP aren't clear. In many cases, irregular brain development or brain tissue damage during pregnancy has occurred. Brain damage during infancy or early childhood can also lead to cerebral palsy. Bacterial meningitis, traumatic brain injuries, infections, lack of oxygen, lead poisoning and genetics have all been linked to the condition.

Types of cerebral palsy

Every child with CP is unique and requires their own individualized treatment plan to thrive. This begins with understanding each main type of cerebral palsy.

  • Ataxic CP: Disrupts depth perception and balance.
  • Athetoid CP: Causes uncontrolled and involuntary muscle movements.
  • Spastic CP: Results in muscle stiffness, making it difficult to perform coordinated movements.

Our treatment and management approaches

Shriners Hospitals for Children understands the complex nature of CP. Our renowned team of specialists, including physicians, nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social worker care managers and RN care managers, embrace a collaborative attitude, inviting families into the planning and treatment process.

Since the type and severity of CP greatly vary from case to case, your child’s treatment will be based on their specific issues and conditions. Our treatments are driven by evidence-based research and years of experience. Shriners Hospitals for Children customizes treatment plans to fit each individual patient’s needs.

Some of the support services and devices we offer for children with CP:

  • Motion analysis: Many of our locations have a motion analysis center designed to evaluate patient movement patterns. Motion analysis is an objective measuring technique that assists the medical team in developing a custom approach to improve the child’s function.
  • Tone management: We provide tone management, a comprehensive nonsurgical approach to decrease spasticity (condition where certain muscles are continuously contracted) with a goal of improving function and ability to sit, stand and in some cases begin walking. Neuromuscular blocking injections, medication pumps, bracing, stretching and oral medications are some of the treatment options available at our orthopaedic locations.
  • Orthotics: Orthotics are designed to support alignment of the upper and lower extremities. They can also help with stability while walking.
  • Pediatric rehabilitation services: This may include occupational and physical therapy, aqua therapy, speech-language pathology, locomotion/walking therapy using a robotic-assisted treadmill (Lokomat), upper extremity robotic training (ARMEO) and electrical stimulation.
  • Assistive device evaluations: Our trained team of physical therapists and providers work together to recommend and prescribe equipment such as crutches, walkers and specialty wheelchairs to aid in mobility.
  • Orthopaedic surgery: Internationally recognized surgeons at Shriners Hospitals for Children provide complex surgical care to ambulatory and nonambulatory children 1 year and older with congenital and acquired conditions. Surgical procedures vary greatly from case to case, but all are aimed at improving function and independence as much as possible. This may include surgery to foster mobility or a procedure to address a secondary condition that's hindering normal functioning.

Conditions, treatments and services provided may vary by location. Please consult with the Shriners Hospitals for Children location nearest you. See zip code search feature to the right.

Request an Appointment

Most major insurance providers are accepted; however, insurance coverage is not required for care. Any child under 18 with a medical condition or medical need that is within the health care system’s scope of services, is eligible for care. Shriners Hospitals for Children offers financial assistance to those in need.

Find a Location Near You

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22 Locations Across North America

Location Specialties
  • Burn Care
  • Craniofacial and Cleft Lip/Palate
  • Neuromuscular
  • Orthopaedics
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Sports Injury and Fractures
  • Therapy and Rehabilitation

Notice: Treatments and services vary by location. Contact nearest hospital for specific details.

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