Using Botox as a Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Spastic movements and muscle stiffness are common symptoms of cerebral palsy (CP). Children living with CP often struggle with unpredictable movements, sometimes even experiencing pain with them. While there are several different treatment options available for CP, there is no cure for these muscle difficulties.
Botox, scientifically known as botulinum toxin A, offers a temporary treatment option with injectable therapy to lessen muscle spasticity. Like any treatment, there are risks associated with Botox for cerebral palsy, but for children with pain, discomfort, and limiting spastic movements, it has the potential to provide significant relief.
What Is Botox?
Botox comes from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. This bacteria is found in numerous natural settings, including intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, forests, lakes, and soil. Developed by the drug company Allergan, Botox received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1989 for several medical uses, including migraines, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and cerebral palsy.
Botox works by weakening or totally paralyzing specific muscles at the injection site, or by preventing specific nerves from firing. This helps in decreasing pain and relaxing the muscles. These effects aren’t permanent and eventually wear off.
Botox for Spasticity
The FDA approved Botox for the treatment of muscle spasticity in adult patients as well as neck dystonia. It’s important to note that the FDA hasn’t approved Botox for use with children having lower limb spasticity although it is sometimes used to treat children with CP.
Just because a medication, like Botox, isn’t approved for a specific use doesn’t mean it’s banned for that use. Healthcare professionals can use their professional discretion in determining if possible benefits outweigh potential risks for such medical interventions.
Benefits children living with cerebral palsy may experience from Botox injections include a better walking gait, less pain, fewer spastic movements, better positions of joints and limbs, and a better range of motion. This relief may also delay the need for a child to have surgery to correct joint and muscle problems until they are older, and there are fewer risks.
How Botox Is Administered
A medical professional administers Botox by injecting it directly into the needed location. A numbing substance can be sprayed on the area before the injection to minimize the discomfort a child may experience. Treatments may include a single injection or several, depending on the severity of symptoms and the size of the muscle group being treated.
Possible Botox Side Effects
Local injections of Botox for cerebral palsy may help some children move and feel better, but the practice isn’t without risks. Botox’s packaging information states that it isn’t known if Botox injections are safe or useful for treating stiffness in lower limb muscles.
The FDA requires this statement since there haven’t been any clinical trials for this specific use of Botox and the FDA hasn’t approved it for spasticity in children. The FDA also requires Botox packaging to include a black box warning. This is a specific kind of warning the FDA reserves for a drug’s side effects that are the most serious and potentially life-threatening. For Botox, this statement warns that it may be possible for the toxin to spread beyond the site of the injection and may result in symptoms of botulism.
In cases where this has happened, the symptoms generally happened between a couple of hours and a couple of weeks after the patient had the injection.
This warning needs to be taken seriously, but it’s also essential to know the overall risk of Botox injections is generally low. There are, however, less severe and more common side effects that include infection at the injection site, pain at the injection site, weakness in the injected limb, and general weakness.
Botox injections for children with cerebral palsy experiencing muscle spasticity aren’t currently considered a permanent solution. The effects of Botox injections, regardless of the use, are only temporary. How long the results last depend on the purpose of the injection, the amount injected, and the individual.
Studies are looking into whether Botox injection could improve the muscle movement and tone of children with cerebral palsy over time. While researchers aren’t seeing a change in muscle tone over time, they see some gross motor function improvements.
Botox injections are potentially helpful for children living with cerebral palsy-related spastic muscle movements. Parents and doctors need to consider the risks and potential side effects to decide if they outweigh the benefits a child may receive in terms of pain relief, comfort, and movement.
While there’s no current cure for cerebral palsy, a proper diagnosis, the availability of helpful resources, and the financial means to access medical treatments like Botox can help children affected by cerebral palsy lead a long and healthy life. If you believe your loved one’s cerebral palsy is the result of medical negligence or malpractice, however, you may have a legal case for compensation to afford medical bills. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC can help investigate whether or not you have a case for this kind of compensation. Contact us today to learn more.