Many of our blogs have focused on cerebral palsy, a group of movement disorders that may result from brain damage during labor or birth. This includes information about diagnosing cerebral palsy, the costs of raising a child with the condition, and health concerns associated with cerebral palsy as children age, among others. In this blog we will discuss ongoing research into cerebral palsy treatment and prevention.
While cerebral is the most common movement disability among children, with more than 10,000 diagnoses a year in the U.S., the medical community still faces challenges in understanding the disorder, prevention methods, and most appropriate forms of treatment. Today, medical experts and researchers work diligently to further our collective understanding of a condition that significantly impacts the lives of children and their families, and they have made significant strides.
Because the precise cause of cerebral palsy is not yet fully understood, there is currently no definitive method to prevent the condition from developing during the course of pregnancy, during delivery, or immediately after birth. Researchers, however, have come to understand certain risk factors and have identified various things families and medical professional can do to reduce the likelihood of a child developing cerebral palsy. The efficacy of preventative measures will still vary depending on when brain damage occurs.
- During Pregnancy – Prevention during pregnancy is centered on mothers staying healthy and maintaining good habits. Medical experts report that mothers can help reduce risks of their child developing cerebral palsy during pregnancy by avoiding exposure to infections or viruses know for adverse effects to a fetus (such as Zika), managing underlying health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, avoiding substance and cigarette use, and receiving Rh factor tests. Rhesus factor is a protein in the blood, and mothers considered Rh negative require special care during pregnancy to avoid adverse health effects to both themselves and their babies.
- During Birth – Medical innovations and better understanding of their applicability during birth have allowed medical professionals to better monitor a baby’s health while in the womb and more easily identify complications. Reducing risk factors focuses on monitoring maternal and fetal heart rate, avoiding stress-induced trauma, and receiving regular checkups in the weeks prior to labor and delivery. Prevention of cerebral palsy during birth may be part of a standard response to brain damage and oxygen deprivation, including HIE and head cooling, which should be performed within six hours of delivery.
- After Birth – Parents should monitor children after birth in order to reduce chances of head trauma and to evaluate developmental milestones a child may be late to achieve, or have difficulties meeting. This requires vaccinations for common infections, using appropriate car seats and cribs with railings, and never leaving newborns and children unattended. Parents should also pay close attention to any conditions their child may display, including jaundice, which, when left untreated, can lead to a form of brain damage known as kernicterus. Researchers have found that treating jaundice proactively in newborns is one of the most medically effective means of preventing cerebral palsy.
As of yet, there is no known cure for cerebral palsy. As such, treatment methods currently focus on helping children with cerebral palsy effectively manage symptoms and improve function in their daily lives. As neuroscientists and researchers continue to explore the developing brain, there is hope that progress toward a cure will be made. In particular, research efforts have focused heavily on finding a cure to cerebral palsy with stem cell therapy.
Although stem cell transplantation in the treatment of CP is still new, clinical trials have begun testing the effectiveness of introducing stem cells using umbilical cord blood infusions. Because stem cells can develop into brain cells and replace damaged cells, researchers theorize that introducing stem cells into the body can stimulate a response for repair. Researchers also suggest that stem cells can be used in a lab to create new cells that can replace damaged brain cells.
The medical community is split over the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in the treatment of cerebral palsy, a sign that there is still much to be learned about the disorder and how the brain functions in general. Even if stem cells were not able to cure the condition, researchers can evaluate testing that may indicate it can be effective in reducing symptoms and increasing mobility in patients.Beam Legal Team is a nationally recognized birth injury law firm with a proven record of success representing families across the country following preventable injuries. Learn more about our services or discuss a potential case by contacting us.