Early Intervention for Cerebral Palsy in Children

Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a brain injury that occurs before or during birth. Often, doctors first recognize signs and symptoms of brain damage—including difficulty crying, reduced heart rate, or lack of movements in the arms and legs—immediately after a baby is born.

If doctors suspect any type of brain injury or abnormal brain development, a team of neonatal specialists at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Tisch Hospital, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, offers immediate treatment to newborns to prevent additional brain damage.

Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a supportive, family-friendly environment. Our doctors encourage you to accompany them on daily rounds while your baby is in intensive care. This gives parents the opportunity to hear doctors discuss treatment and medical updates, and also to ask questions about their baby’s condition or the next steps.

Cool-Cap Therapy

Our neonatologists may recommend cool-cap therapy if the results of diagnostic tests suggest that a baby’s brain was deprived of oxygen during birth. This is an uncommon cause of cerebral palsy, but our specialists have the expertise to identify when this occurs.

Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital is one of the leading medical centers in the Northeast for cool-cap therapy. When administered within six hours of birth, when the cause of brain damage is unknown, this treatment can help to prevent additional brain injury.

The cool-cap technology is based on a simple but effective premise: Lowering the core temperature of a baby’s brain by a few degrees decreases the need for oxygen.

In the hours after a brain injury, a baby’s body reacts defensively with an inflammatory response. This treatment relieves inflammation and gives the baby’s brain a chance to rest, reducing the risk of additional brain damage.

Cool-cap therapy is administered in the NICU. Doctors place a small cap that contains cool, circulating water on your baby’s head. The temperature of this cap is regulated to keep the baby’s core body temperature at approximately 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your baby wears the cool-cap for 72 hours. During this time, doctors continually monitor your baby’s vital signs and look for signs of neurological damage.

Follow-Up Care for Newborns

As soon as your baby can breathe, suck, and swallow on his or her own, you can bring your baby home from the hospital. Doctors ask you to return to our neonatal follow-up clinic when your baby is 6 months old, 1 year old, and 18 months old.

During these visits, doctors assess your baby’s overall development and can refer you to specialists in neurology, orthopedics, pulmonology, or other pediatric areas of expertise if additional treatment is required.

Although early intervention cannot reverse brain damage that causes cerebral palsy, our immediate care specialists can improve your child’s developmental prognosis. Early intervention also allows doctors to tailor treatment to your child’s evolving needs as he or she grows. This may include spasticity management and rehabilitation, which may begin when your child is a toddler.

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