Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor impairment in childhood, affecting 1.5 to over 4 per 1,000 children. The good news is that there are many effective treatments that could work to help those affected by the condition to become active and be as independent as possible. In addition to existing physical, occupational, speech and language therapy, researchers are continuously finding ways to treat the condition. From medical surgery to stem cell therapy, it is possible to improve the quality of life of patients with CP.
It is standard practice to try less invasive treatments options first for children with CP. For example, physical and occupational therapies assist in improving symptoms for many kids. They improve balance and movement, helping patients walk on their own or by using mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walking aids. In addition, special exercises strengthen muscles and joints, which helps to maintain stability and positioning.
Another option is to use orthotic devices to enable a child to move with ease and become independent. Medications that help the muscles relax can also be administered, while muscle injections on an arm or leg are effective at providing relief. However, if the above treatments have been tried and relief is not adequate, surgery for cerebral palsy can be considered. To illustrate, selective dorsal rhizotomy is a type of surgery that targets the communication lines between the brain, spinal nerves, spinal cord, and muscles. By cutting the ‘nerve rootlets,’ muscle spasticity is corrected and improved. Moreover, you can also opt to surgically implant an intrathecal pump in the abdominal wall to deliver medication that will increase symptom relief.
Stem Cell Treatment
There are no approved stem cell therapy treatments at this time, but the results of clinical trials are promising. Researchers believe that stem cell treatments can help restore function of patients with CP. This involves transplanting neural stem cells that have the potential to repair or replace damaged neurons. According to preliminary studies, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) can also release elements that assist in natural brain repair processes. However, as each case of CP is unique, developing, studying and testing new treatments is quite difficult. Deploying stem cells to rebuild the brains of individuals with CP is very challenging because neurons and new cells will have to be connected properly into complicated networks of brain neurons.
Current research aims to gain a deeper understanding of CP and to identify risk factors and causes to find and create advanced treatment options. On top of surgery, stem cell therapy, which is under development, can also become a future treatment for people affected by the condition.