Monday, May 5, 2008

Spastic Diplegia - A form of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. Cerebral palsy can be caused by trauma to one or more specific areas of the brain, most likely occurring sometime between fetal development and infancy. The disorders associated with cerebral palsy are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves, but instead by faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain. This disrupts the brain's ability to properly control movement and posture. The area of the brain in which trauma occurred will determine the affects of the condition.
Cerebral palsy has different forms and one such form is spastic diplegia. Spastic diplegia is when both legs are affected by cerebral palsy. A patient may have difficulty walking because of tight muscles in the hips and legs, causing the legs to turn inward and cross at the knees. This causes the legs to move stiff and awkward causing a characteristic walking rhythm known as the scissors gait.
Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage in the outer layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex. Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy affects nearly 70 to 80 percent of patients and is the most common form of cerebral palsy. Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy symptoms include increased tone, or tension, in a muscle. Normal muscles work in pairs and when one group of muscles contract, the other group relaxes, allowing uninhibited movement in the desired direction.
Complications in brain-to-nerve-to-muscle communication prevent the normal degree of muscle tension. Muscles affected by spastic diplegia cerebral palsy become active together and block effective movement. This results in the muscles of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy patients to be constantly tense, or spastic.
Cerebral palsy can be classified by the way it affects movement or by the number of limbs it affects. These classifications can be combined to describe severe conditions such as spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. In spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, all four limbs are affected; both legs, as well as mild affects in the arms are present.
Spastic diplegia cerebral palsy tends to affect the legs of a patient more than the arms. Spastic diplegia patients have more extensive involvement of the lower extremity than the upper extremity. Patients with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy will eventually have the ability to walk. Patients with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy are typically characterized by a crouched gait. Gait analysis and proper treatment can correct toe walking and flexed knees, which are common attributes of spastic diplegia.
Individuals with spastic diplegia can be helped by specialized treatment teams to decide which treatments are best suited for them. Leg braces, gait analysis, botox injections, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, and several other treatments can help to manage spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. A specialized treatment team should include a physical therapist, pediatrician, physiatrist, neurologist and neurosurgeon, and an orthopedic surgeon that can all aid in the decision making process.

* Information gathered from the Cerebral Palsy Source *

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