Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a disorder affecting muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to direct movements in a deliberate way). In spite of its limiting physical symptoms, those with CP don’t typically have intellectual disabilities. CP usually results from brain damage that occurs to a baby in the mother’s womb or at birth, or during a child’s first three to five years. The disease occurs in approximately two out of a thousand live births.
Prenatal factors contributing to cerebral palsy include separation of the placenta or an umbilical cord becoming wrapped around the baby’s neck. External factors include traumatic or premature births, strokes, low birth weights and postnatal infections. In each of these conditions, oxygen to the baby gets cut off. Similarly, patients can get CP from choking, head injuries, poisoning or near-drowning. Because it employs pure oxygen, HBOT vastly increases O2 concentration in a CP patient’s body tissues and fluids.
When CP causes athetosis, uncontrolled writhing motion of the hands, face and/or tongue, patients are unable to grasp or manipulate objects or to speak clearly. One or all of a CP sufferer’s limbs may be affected. CP induced dystonia happens when faulty brain signals cause spasms in the shoulder, neck and trunk muscles. This forces the body to make repetitive writhing movements or get into unusual postures. Low muscle tone, or Hypotonia, causes a loss of muscle strength and firmness. Hypertonia or high muscle tone causes rigidity and spasmodic movements. The least common form of CP is Ataxia –which produces unsteady, shaky movements that negatively impact balance.
As part of a multi-pronged treatment approach for CP, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can enable some patients to improve their symptoms. Results vary from patient to patient. Though not all have improved their symptoms with HBOT, some patients at our center have seen improvements in vision, hearing, cognitive abilities and speech. CP patients suffering with brain injuries from stroke or trauma sometimes experience long term improvements.
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