Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders affecting muscle tone, movement and coordination. Cerebral refers to the brain, and palsy refers to muscle weakness or impaired motor function.
The disorder can occur because of an injury to the brain or abnormal growth during the brain’s development. It can affect children in different ways and can involve:
- Motor skills
- Muscle tone
- Muscle weakness
Cerebral palsy cannot be cured, but it can be managed to prevent complications and to make the most of the child’s capabilities at home and in the community, now and in the future.
Children with cerebral palsy need a multidisciplinary approach. At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, our team of pediatric specialists works together to provide comprehensive, ongoing care. Our team includes:
- Developmental pediatrics
- Orthotics and prosthetics
- Rehabilitation (e.g., physical, occupational, speech therapy, audiology)
Management of cerebral palsy can include nonsurgical approaches. Nonsurgical treatment options include:
- Medicines to decrease muscle stiffness
- Physical, occupational or speech therapy
- Orthotics (splints or braces)
- Evaluation by specialists in orthopedics, neurosurgery or ophthalmology
Surgical treatments that may help decrease your child’s muscle stiffness and improve his functioning include:
- Muscle or tendon lengthening: Your child’s doctor will lengthen the large muscles or tendons in the back of the leg or hip, or sometimes the muscles of the arm or hand.
- Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR): Your child’s doctor will cut some of the roots of nerves as they leave the spine. This helps stop the nerves from forcing the muscles to be rigid or tight.
- Intrathecal baclofen: Your child’s doctor will implant a pump and catheter to give special medicine to your child’s spine. The medicine can help reduce spasticity.
- Botox and phenol treatment: Your child’s doctor will inject Botox (a type of protein) or phenol (an anesthetic) into the muscles. These can help loosen large muscle groups.
- Bone, joint and spine surgery: A surgeon may need to adjust the bones, joints or spine to improve how those parts of the body move or function.
About half of people with cerebral palsy need braces, walkers or wheelchairs. Children’s has a seating and mobility clinic and the only on-site, hospital-based pediatric orthotics and prosthetics practice in Georgia.
Having all of these services in our System allows us to provide more thorough visits with multiple specialties. This multidisciplinary approach can help streamline care and reduce the number of appointments your child requires.
Specialized services include:
- Motion analysis: Using advanced technology, specialists can identify important muscle activity and movement to help develop a treatment plan.
- Orthotics and prosthetics: Certified orthotists can evaluate, cast, fabricate and fit orthoses for your child’s specific needs.
- Assistive technology: Our therapists can help find the right kinds of assistive technology and teach your child how to use it.
- Seating and mobility: By evaluating mobility equipment and your child’s needs, our therapists can determine what works best.
- Driver rehabilitation: Our certified driver rehabilitation specialist assesses a teen’s ability to safely learn how to drive or return to driving.
Our Cerebral Palsy Program combines the expertise of specialists from Children’s Physician Group as well as specialists in the community to help coordinate patient care. Our program is led by Medical Director Robert W. Bruce Jr., MD.
Children's Physician Group
- Thomas G. Burns, PsyD, ABPP, CN
- David J. Marcus, PhD
- Robert Bruce Jr. MD
- Jorge A. Fabregas, MD
- Nicholas Fletcher, MD
- Joshua S. Murphy, MD
- Michael L. Schmitz, MD
- Laura Jones, MD
- Udayan M. Kulkarni, MD
- Enoch Leung, MD
- Elizabeth A. Poplawski, DO
- Joshua A. Vova, MD
Hughes Spalding Clinic
Is there a Facebook group for patient families?
Children’s offers a private Facebook group where our cerebral palsy families can better communicate with each other—and us. This group serves as a forum for asking questions, sharing tips and celebrating milestones with one another.Join the Group