Children afflicted with the most severe forms of cerebral palsy face a higher likelihood of developing the spine condition scoliosis. Although this can be treated with surgery, there are risks for complications within the first year.
Despite the high inherent side effect risks, the procedure has long-term benefits for both the affected child and their caregivers that outweigh the concerns.
That’s the message from the findings of a new North American study published this month in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
Scoliosis Risks in Children with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is a functional disability affecting nearly 1 million people in the United States. Most of these are children who suffered brain damage during birth or as a young infant.
Aside from limiting body movement and coordination, cerebral palsy can increase the likelihood of other conditions including vision problems, hearing problems, difficulty speaking & osteoporosis.
One of the conditions most commonly associated with cerebral palsy is scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine. For children living with severe cerebral palsy, generally ranked as a level 4 or 5 on the Gross Motor Function Classification System, as many as 35% may develop the disease.
Ranging from mild to severe, scoliosis may cause additional problems with sitting or balance, and in some cases may even affect breathing, heart and digestive functions.
The Benefits & Risks of Scoliosis Surgery
Scoliosis may be treated in a number of different ways depending on the severity: mild cases are generally monitored on a regular basis to measure progression; moderate to severe cases may be helped with bracing that slows progression.
Another option is scoliosis surgery, which can stop or even correct the progression of the disease by fusing levels of the spine together.
However, complications are quite common in children with cerebral palsy who undergo scoliosis surgery, with nearly half experiencing issues like pneumonia or infection in the first year.
As a result, there has been disagreement about whether the benefits of scoliosis surgery outweigh these risks.
Study Measures Benefits of Scoliosis Surgery in Children with Cerebral Palsy
In this study, a team led by Dr. Firoz Miyanji of the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, along with doctors from seven other children’s hospitals in North America, followed 69 children who’d undergone spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis.
All of the participants had measured as a level 4 or 5 on the Gross Motor Function Classification System prior to their surgery, and had recovered for a minimum period of 5 years since. They also had an average age of 13.
The team of researchers measured the success of the scoliosis surgery at one, two and five years post-surgery. They found that the curve of the patients’ spines was corrected significantly overall from the severe to the mild-to-moderate range.
Also, patients reported improvements in their comfort levels, posture and personal care. Finally, more than 90% of caregivers reported that their patient’s quality of life had improved within a year of the surgery, with results lasting through the 5 year period.
The researchers did note that 46% of children developed an adverse effect of surgery within the first year, such as infection or pneumonia, however, this didn’t change the patient of caregiver’s descriptions of quality of life improvements.
The doctors concluded that scoliosis surgery provides quality of life improvements for children afflicted with severe cerebral palsy, as well as their caregivers, that outweighs the risk for complications during the first year of recovery.
For the latest news on the causes, treatment and litigation surrounding cerebral palsy, or to discuss your case and legal options for a lawsuit directly with a lawyer at no cost, contact DrugNews today.
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