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Spring 2007

Cerebral Palsy Center Treats Adults Too

Physical ailments in adults and children can be helped at UCLA center

Cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement and posture resulting from an injury to the brain during early development, is the most common cause of childhood disability. Symptoms vary depending on the location and extent of the brain injury. People with cerebral palsy experience movement disorders such as spasticity and dystonia. Weakness, joint contractures, balance problems and slurred speech are common associated problems.

“A wide range of physical symptoms affect people with cerebral palsy, and the severity ranges from those with mild symptoms to those who require continuous care,” says William Oppenheim, M.D., medical director of the UCLA/Orthopaedic Hospital Center for Cerebral Palsy, which offers full-service care to both children and adults. “Although we currently can’t cure cerebral palsy, almost every physical ailment resulting from the condition can be helped in some way.”

Sophisticated movement analyses available at UCLA can pinpoint what’s causing the movement disorder to help plan treatment. Orthopaedic surgery continues to be an option for patients with severe movement limitations or joint contractures, and to correct deformities associated with spasticity. But in recent years, several less-invasive treatments have emerged that, in many cases, make fewer surgeries necessary throughout childhood. Botox injections can reduce spasticity, and the baclofen pump delivers medication directly to the central nervous system where the movement disorder originates.

Eileen Fowler, Ph.D., the center’s director of Research and Education notes, “We can do a great deal to help patients lead more productive lives.”

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