What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular disorder which affects the patient’s posture, muscle tone or movement abilities. This is mostly caused due to abnormal development of the brain during pregnancy.
The signs and symptoms of this disorder are mostly seen developing during infant years or the start of childhood. A child with cerebral palsy shows impaired movement abilities such as exaggerated reflexes, involuntary movements, unsteadiness in walking, rigidity or floppiness of the torso or limbs as well as abnormal posture or they may show a combination of these.
Cerebral palsy affects the ability to swallow normally and also causes imbalance in the eye muscles, causing squint eye. The range of motion by the limbs is also affected to a great extent in the various joints as the muscles tend to become stiff.
The variation and severity of the symptoms is seen in different combinations in different patients. This disorder mostly causes some additional brain developmental disease as well.
What are the signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?
There are a large number of signs and symptoms seen in various cases. Mostly, the problems associated with coordination and movement control are:
- Muscle tone variation (too stiff/floppy)
- Spasticity (exaggerated reflexes due to stiffened muscles)
- Rigidity (Normal reflexes but stiff muscles)
- Ataxia (Muscle coordination loss)
- Involuntary movements/tremor in hand
- Athetosis (writhing and slow movements)
- Motor skill developmental problems
- Favoring one side of the body
- Walking difficulty
- Swallowing problems
- Excessive drooling
- Eating/sucking gets difficult
- Slow development of speaking skills
- Fine motor skills get affected
The disability caused by cerebral palsy is seen mostly on one side of the body or it may affect the whole body at times. The stiffening muscles need to be treated quickly as it worsens with time.
There are several neurological problems also seen in cerebral palsy cases that are caused by brain abnormalities. These are:
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems
- Intellectual development problems
- Abnormal touch/pain sensitivity
- Oral disorders
- Psychiatric disorders
- Inconsistency in urinating
It is vital to see an experienced doctor or a neurologist who can identify the cause and advise the best suited treatment for treating the complications.
What are the causes of Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is the result of an abnormality in the brain development caused by a disruption in the development process, mostly during pregnancy.
In most cases the exact cause for the developmental abnormality is unknown however there are certain factors which are known to lead to most of the brain abnormalities during its development, these are:
- Random gene mutation – These are seen in the genes which control the brain development process.
- Pregnancy infections – These develop during pregnancy and affect the fetus as well.
- Fetal stroke – this is caused as a result of lack of blood supply to the developing brain.
- Oxygen deficiency – Asphyxia is caused when the oxygen supply to the brain of the fetus gets disrupted during delivery.
- Infant infections – This results in inflammation around and inside the brain.
- Severe head injury – This is often caused in motor accidents or a fall.
What are the complications caused by Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy mainly results in general weakness in muscles and muscle rigidity. It also causes coordination problems which can result in a lot of complications, such as:
- Contracture – This is the result of spasticity which causes the muscle tissues to get shortened and become taut. This can result in problems with the normal development of bones and can also cause the bones to eventually bend, result in joint deformity or even dislocation.
- Malnutrition – The difficulty in swallowing and eating in general can result in malnutrition in the child. This causes weaker bone development and requires feeding devices in many cases.
- Mental Health Issues – Various psychiatric conditions are related to cerebral palsy, depression being the most common. Social ostracized individuals often suffer from depression.
- Lung disorder – People with cerebral palsy are at more risk of acquiring lung disease and have breathing problems.
- Neurological disorders – The neurological condition may worsen faster in a patient suffering from cerebral palsy.
- Osteoarthritis – Muscle spasticity causes abnormal pressure on the joints and results in abnormal alignment of the joint bones. This causes painful symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
How is Cerebral Palsy diagnosed?
An experienced pediatrician can help immensely in determining if the child is suffering from cerebral palsy by performing a series of diagnostic tests. This includes an evaluation of the child’s signs and symptoms as well as a review of their medical history. A detailed physical examination is mostly the initial test performed if cerebral palsy is suspected.
A pediatric neurologist will then be referred to for additional diagnosis. They will perform diagnostic tests such as:
Brain imaging technology can show the areas that are damaged or have abnormal development in the brain. The diagnostic tests for this may include:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test – This imaging diagnostic test uses a combination of radio waves and powerful magnetic fields to produce detailed 3 D cross-sectional images of the brain. This test also helps to identify lesions and other abnormalities in the brain.
- Cranial Ultrasound – This test uses ultrasound waves to produce images faster and is mostly used during the preliminary assessment.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scans – A CT scan uses x-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of the child’s brain and is helpful in identifying abnormalities.
This diagnostic test is advised if the child is suffering from seizures to determine the existence of epilepsy.
There are various other smaller diagnostic tests that are also advised to analyze the complications resulting from it. These are:
- Blood tests (to determine blood-clotting disorders that are a risk and cause stroke)
- Vision ability tests
- Hearing tests
- Speech tests
- Intellectual ability tests
- Cognitive function tests
- Movement disorder tests, etc
How is Cerebral Palsy treated?
As cerebral palsy results in a large number of varied complications and other disorders in the child the complete treatment is managed mostly by a team of expert pediatricians and other medical specialists.
These are the various methods of treating the complications and disorders arising due to cerebral palsy:
These are helpful in loosening the tightened muscles which can help improve movement control and range of motion. These are also helpful in relieving pain and manage the other complications related to spasticity and other symptoms.
The medicinal drug treatment is further categorized as being ‘isolated’ (confined to certain muscles only) or it can be ‘generalized’ (on the whole body).
Various non-medication therapies are now available that can help improve the impaired functional abilities in a patient suffering from cerebral palsy. These are:
- Physiotherapy – Exercise and training the muscles can help a child suffering from cerebral palsy to improve their strength, balance, flexibility, motor development and mobility.
- Aids and Devices – Braces are commonly used to correct the abnormal posture often caused due to cerebral palsy in a child. There are a variety of supportive devices which help to improve functions, such as walking, bathing and even feeding.
- Occupational Therapy – This therapy also uses several aiding devices that can help the child overcome the physical disability caused by cerebral palsy. The devices used commonly are walking sticks, walkers, quadruple walking canes, seating systems and efficient electric wheelchairs.
- Speech and Language Therapy – Simple sign language is taught to children with speech or language impairments caused due to cerebral palsy. This is most effective in efficient and convenient communication.
Surgery and other Treatments
Surgery for cerebral palsy is mainly aimed at loosening the tightened muscles and correcting the abnormalities in the bone and joints caused by spasticity. These are the various surgical treatments for cerebral palsy:
- Orthopedic surgery – Severe contractures and other bone deformities require surgical procedures on the bones and the joints to align them in their natural position. Surgical procedures are also used to elongate the muscles and tendons that are very short due to contracture. These are helpful to alleviate the pain and also to improve the mobility.
- Severing Nerves – In severe cases the surgeon may be required to remove the nerve which is attached to the spastic muscles. This is also known as ‘Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy’. This procedure helps to relax the tightened muscles and to alleviate the pain as well.
Why choose Travcure for Cerebral Palsy treatment in India?
TRAVCURE is the foremost medical tourism service provider in India with connections to the world’s largest network of global-class hospitals in the country. These advanced hospitals and clinics are situated in most major cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, etc. Travcure offers every patient with the best treatment package for cerebral palsy in India at the best and most healthcare facilities in the country at the most affordable cost.