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University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Southampton trust pioneers new cerebral palsy rehab treatment

RESEARCH: A new rehabilitation programme pioneered in Southampton can halve the recovery time for children with cerebral palsy who have undergone hip surgery.

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Consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Caroline Edwards, who is based at Southampton General Hospital, has developed an accelerated rehabilitation programme which can see patients walking within six weeks.

Conventionally, patients are placed in plaster shorts – known as a spica – for six to eight weeks. These hold the hip in place but limit movement, causing muscle wastage, delaying the start of therapy treatment and preventing the patient from standing or walking for at least three months.

Many children born with cerebral palsy need hip surgery to allow them to stand and walk or, if permanently in a wheelchair, to move freely and sit in comfort, as the condition causes muscles to tighten and pull the hip joint out of place.

Under accelerated rehabilitation, patients are placed in their brace at night or during periods of rest following surgery, allowing early movement and early standing to preserve muscle strength or comfortable seating to allow a quicker return to school.

The programme has also been introduced for children with severe spina bifida, where a series of birth defects affect the development of the spine and nervous system.

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