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Breakthrough test for cerebral palsy

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 9:30 AM EST
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A half a million people are living with cerebral palsy right now. CP is the most common of all childhood disabilities, affecting movement and posture and is most often caused by lack of blood flow to the brain at birth. The earlier it’s diagnosed; the sooner treatments and therapies can begin. A new breakthrough may help to change the lives of these children forever.

Whenever you see Wallie, Ollie won’t be too far away. These two-year-old twins have been through a lot together.

“He was one pound 13 ounces, and he was one pound 15 ounces,” recalled their mom, Hilary Davis.

“Roughly the size of a dollar bill,” their dad, Casey Davis described.

Born at 26 weeks, Ollie thrived, while Wallie …

“We start to find out that he’s had really serious brain bleeds,” explained Casey.

“His chances for cerebral palsy were really, really high,” Hilary shared.

“Though the injury can happen around the time of birth. We often don’t know until months or years later,” described Betsy Ostrander, MD, pediatric neurologist at University of Utah Health.

Pediatric neurologist Betsy Ostrander is spearheading a study to detect cerebral palsy earlier than ever before.

“Their movements tend to be very stiff and contracted, and the babies seem almost uncomfortable,” illustrated Dr. Ostrander.

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,” elaborated Dr. Ostrander.

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 nine and a half 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,” explained Dr. Ostrander.

For Wallie, an early diagnosis led to early therapies. Giving Wallie the best chance yet to keep up with his brother.

“Even ten years ago he wouldn’t have lived past birth. It’s incredible. It’s a miracle,” shared Casey.

The research is still ongoing. Now that researchers know early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is possible, they will focus on which interventions will be most effective.

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