Understanding orthopaedic complications of cerebral palsy

Dr Rakesh Lalla, a Consultant Intervention Neurologist, Fortis Hospital Kalyan, and Dr Pramod Bhor, an orthopaedist and joint replacement surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi, share their insights on Cerebral Palsy and its affects the bones and motor functions of the body

Image source: Google Image use for representational purposes only
Image source: Google
Image use for representational purposes only

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition caused by a brain injury that takes place before, during or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects muscle tone and control, which can result in involuntary movements or abnormal walking.

The deformities are caused due to the increased muscle tone. The primary orthopaedic conditions most affected in cerebral palsy are:

  • Balance
  • Impacted fine and gross motor function
  • Impaired muscle tone
  • Impaired movements, coordination, and control
  • Impaired oral motor function
  • Posture
  • Reflexes

What are the orthopaedic complications?

Muscle contracture: This condition is incurable, but it is not progressive, though living with it could mean that the patient would have repressed movement and experience excruciating pain.

Hip dysplasia: Deformity of the hip joint is a characteristic of hip dysplasia occurring in a patient with cerebral palsy.

Foot-orthopaedic health: Abnormal muscle contractions in the feet can lead to flat foot.

Scoliosis: Cerebral palsy may lead to the development of scoliosis. Here the back muscles are affected, rendering them inadequate to support the spine, causing curvature, giving a ‘C’ or ‘S’-shaped curve. Even though cerebral palsy itself is not progressive, this is a condition that can get worse with time, if not treated.

Other concerns: A person with cerebral palsy may have one leg which is longer than the other, which could make walking difficult and uncomfortable. Torsion in the legs is another possible issue, where the legs either twist in or out, making walking difficult.

The importance of monitoring orthopaedic health and using treatments: It is crucial to monitor the health of a person to provide a better opportunity. Non-invasive strategies like physical therapy help cope with the disabilities, only resorting to surgery when it is needed.

Physical therapy is crucial because it helps joints and bones to stay in the correct alignment and can keep things from getting any worse. Treatment mostly consists of physical therapy, injections, splints and surgical procedures to correct deformities.