Honolulu, Hawaii – Children with cerebral palsy show long-term improvement through treatment with botulinum toxin, according to research presented during the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Honolulu, March 29-April 5, 2003.
Children treated with the drug had improvements ranging from making voluntary movements for the first time to improved stance and walking, according to the study’s lead author, neurologist Marc P. DiFazio, MD, of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
"It''''''''s very exciting to see the progress these kids can make," DiFazio said. "Some of them are able to do more for themselves, like feeding themselves or turning on a faucet. Some were able to hold a pen and write for the first time, or use a computer touch screen to communicate. These may not seem like big changes, but they can be life-changing for these kids and their families."
The study involved 250 children, ages one to 16, who received botulinum toxin to treat their cerebral palsy. Of those, 206 children had repeated treatments and 148 were followed for longer than one year, for an average of more than two years.
A total of 86 percent of the children had notable improvement in their symptoms of muscle spasticity after the injections, as measured by videotape analysis, physician evaluation, spasticity rating scales, as well as the response of the family. Of those who continued treatment, 92 percent continued their favorable response to the drug longer than one to two years. Of those who were followed for more than two years, more than 80 percent continued to show improvement over their initial symptoms before beginning treatment, and those results often lasted longer than four months after an injection, DiFazio said.
"These results confirm that botulinum toxin in appropriate dosing is safe and effective for long-term use for children with cerebral palsy," he said.
Side effects from the drug were mild and uncommon, DiFazio said. Five children experienced temporary side effects -- four had a flu-like reaction and one had mild weakness in the legs. The researchers also found that no children developed resistance to the drug after repeated use.
"It''''''''s great news for families of children with cerebral palsy that long-term use of botulinum toxin is safe," DiFazio said. "In the doses that we used, it had minimal adverse side effects and did not appear to lead to significant immune system resistance."
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, autism and multiple sclerosis.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.
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Editor's Notes: Dr. DiFazio will present the research at the AAN’s 55th Annual Meeting in Honolulu during a poster presentation on Thurs., April 3 at 5:30 p.m. in Kamehameha I and II at the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). He will be available to answer media questions during a briefing on Wed., April 2 at 11:00 a.m. in the AAN Press Room, Room 327 of the HCC.
All listed times are for Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time (HT).