Research finds earlier diagnosis of cerebral palsy is possible
Cerebral palsy is the most common of all childhood disabilities, affecting movement and posture. It’s most often caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain at birth. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.
A new breakthrough may help forever change the lives of those affected, like Wallie Davis.
Whenever you see Wallie, Ollie won’t be too far away. The 2-year-old twins have been through a lot together.
“He (Wallie) was one pound, 13 ounces, and he (Ollie) was one pound, 15 ounces,” said their mom, Hilary Davis.
“Roughly the size of a dollar bill,” dad Casey said.
Born at 26 weeks, Ollie thrived, while Wallie “had really serious brain bleeds,” Casey said.
“His chances for cerebral palsy were really, really high,” Hilary said.
“Though the injury can happen around the time of birth, we often don’t know until months or years later,” said Dr. Betsy Ostrander, a pediatric neurologist with University of Utah Health.
“Their movements tend to be very stiff and contracted, and the babies seem almost uncomfortable.”
Videos are taken of the babies on their due date.
“We watch the video because it’s so hard when you’re looking at a baby to appreciate these very fine movements,” Ostrander said.
MRI brain images are taken, combined with the Hammersmith Infant Neurologic Exam that evaluates 26 different movements. These tests can reduce the diagnosis from an average of 19.5 months to 9.5 months. The difference can be life-changing.
“If we’re not diagnosing kids until three or four, we’re losing the ability to harness the brain’s natural plasticity to work around those areas of injury and develop new pathways that can help them,” Ostrander said.
For Wallie, an early diagnosis led to early therapies, giving Wallie the best chance yet to keep up with his brother.
“Even 10 years ago he wouldn’t have lived past birth. It’s incredible. It’s a miracle,” Casey said.
The research is still ongoing, and now that researchers know that early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is possible, they’ll focus on which interventions will be most effective.