Health Minister Dr. Kim Hames recently promised a further $500,000 to be given to the botox treatment program for children with cerebral palsy. Since it is such an effective treatment for people with CP, the waiting list is long. But, with this additional cash injection, it is hoped that the waiting time will be a thing of the past. The issue to date has been that using botulinum toxin has been proved so successful that it is growing in demand, translating into 70 new cases per year. In addition, it seems that waiting for the treatment – apart from being frustrating – can have long-term detrimental impacts. For example, in one case a 5-year-old girl was learning to walk and that the botox treatment would greatly assist her progress, but the family has been told – after waiting two-and-a-half years already – that they will need to wait an additional six months to a year before they get it, thus reducing her possibility for progress.
Botulinum Toxin A (BTA) is a muscle relaxant derived from the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum. Although this is associated with a type of food poisoning (botulism), like other toxic substances, when used in small, controlled doses, it offers safe, effective relief for various conditions, such as cerebral palsy. For example, it is able to treat pes equinus in children who have symptoms of cerebral palsy and spasticity. Pes equinus – also referred to as tip-toeing – is extremely common in CP kids. This is a consequence of spasticity that occurs in surrounding muscles. This leads to it being almost impossible for the child to place his or her foot, flat on the floor. However, BTA can relax these muscles when the treatment is injected into the calf muscles. Hence walking is facilitated, and balance is improved.
Another issue common with CP that can reap the benefits of this treatment is leg-straightening. When the muscles at the back of the thigh tighten, it becomes very difficult to straighten the leg. Once the BTA is injected, legs are straightened and walking or sitting becomes easier. As well, the hip’s adductor muscles can be improved which is often an issue for those with different types of cerebral palsy who may have too high muscle tone, impairing mobility as it becomes tougher to keep the legs apart. And for those CP individuals suffering from upper limb spasticity, BTA is often able to reduce elbow/wrist muscle tone to make it easier for them to grasp and pinch, etc.
Furthermore, BTA injections can minimize muscle done imbalances and fixed contractures. Balance across the joint can be restored by using BTA to lower the more active muscle tone. In this way, potential damage to joints can be minimized and even avoided, possibly eliminating the need for surgery.
BTA has also been known to reduce pain in people with cerebral palsy. As well, BTA helps to control spasms, improves positioning and facilitates personal care in a variety of areas, such as drooling, etc. BTA is also often used by surgeons during operations as a way of decreasing painful post-operative spasms while protecting soft tissue from involuntary movement until the area is fully healed. Further, even though at times BTA has not significantly improved movement or function of teens and adults with CP, they have still reported high levels of satisfaction with what the treatment has given them, vis-à-vis cosmetic aesthetics. And, BTA can be very effective in reducing fatigue since movement is much more fluid following a treatment, rendering the CP patient less reliant on more difficult, tiresome movements.