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Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy

Quadriplegia is a form of Cerebral Palsy (CP) in which all four limbs are affected, hence the prefix “Quadri.” It is characterized with more severe motor dysfunctions than other forms of CP. Quadriplegics suffer loss of both motor and sensory functions in the affected limbs.


Quadriplegia is caused by damage to the brain or the spinal cord. Causes of Quadriplegia can be from physical trauma (such as a car crash, fall or sports injury) or from a disease such as polio. Not all severe neck or spinal injuries necessarily lead to quadriplegia, as long as the spinal cord is not damaged.


The condition is medically rated 1 to 8 in terms of severity, with 1 being the most severe and 8 the least. At the lower levels of severity (8 to 6), partial function of the limbs is possible. However, all quadriplegics suffer from some kind of finger dysfunction. At the more severe levels (5 and lower), all or some of the four limbs do not function at all. Quadriplegics rated 1 (the most severe) usually have no ability to move any parts of their bodies below the neck.


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Besides the obvious symptoms of limb dysfunction, quadriplegics usually suffer impairment in the torso, affecting bowel and bladder control, speech, digestion, breathing and sexual function. Secondary symptoms could include pressure sores (from prolonged sitting in a wheelchair or from being bed-ridden), respiratory complications, bone fractures, spastic jerking and cardiovascular disease.


Quadriplegics are generally limited in their lifestyle, with almost all of them being confined to a bed or wheelchair and requiring assistance in performing basic daily functions such as eating, dressing and toilet needs.


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There is no cure for CP, but there are various forms of therapy that can be helpful in making a quadriplegic’s life a little easier. The ability to rehabilitate someone suffering from quadriplegia in any degree depends on the initial detection of the symptoms. The longer the delay in diagnosis, lower are the chances of recovery. Besides physical therapy that can encourage CP victims to improve gait and volitional movements, occupational and speech therapies are also helpful for a more positive mental outlook and can encourage more independence on the part of the CP victim. There are also neural treatments which can return slight movement to severe quadriplegics.


One of the most notable cases of partially successful neural treatments is that of the late actor Christopher Reeve. After many months of treatment at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange, NJ, Reeve could partially breath without use of a respirator. Reeve also visited Israel and studied the advance research going on in that country in the study of spinal cord injuries.  The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation was established to further research treatments for quadriplegia. To date, the Foundation has researched and performed hundreds of studies to find further treatments.


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