This project is jointly funded by Sparks and charity partner Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through the National Research Funding Call.
Every year, around 1,800 babies and children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy in the UK. Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of physical disability in children in the developed world and is caused by damage to the areas of the brain that control movement, balance and posture.
Damage can be caused during pregnancy, before and after birth, and in childhood with a range of causes from head trauma to genetics. cerebral palsy leads to a range of complications with movement as well as with sensation, vision, hearing, swallowing, and speaking.
There is a range of treatment options, depending on each child’s symptoms, but current diagnostic tests lack the sensitivity to determine exactly which treatment path will be best for each child. In addition, the current most effective tests require general anaesthetic and so are not without risk.
Dr Thomas O’Brien and his team from Liverpool John Moores University want to try see if ultrasound scanning could provide the answers needed to determine the best treatment path for each child, in a much less invasive and more widely applicable way.
Muscle stiffness in children with cerebral palsy can be caused by both muscular and nerve problems – these require different types of treatment. Using a combination of ultrasound imaging and mathematics, Dr O’Brien and his team will develop a new diagnostic tool for cerebral palsy, building on their existing expertise and hope to bring this into the clinic.
An ultrasound-based muscle stiffness assessment tool that could help clinicians make decisions would help ensure that each patient received the most tailored care for their specific needs, giving them the best outcomes without the need for invasive, unpleasant diagnostic procedures.
A kinder way to find the best treatment options for children with cerebral palsy
Researcher: Thomas O’Brien