Monash Health in the Media: Study gives new hope for babies at high-risk of cerebral palsy

Monash Children’s Hospital is helping babies and their families get a head start by predicting those at high-risk of cerebral palsy (CP). 

As reported by Herald Sun, a study at Monash Children’s Hospital in collaboration with Monash University and Hudson Institute of Medical Research, has confirmed the accuracy and benefits of Early Neurodevelopmental Assessments in diagnosing babies at only 3-4 months of age. Without these breakthrough assessments, babies may not have been diagnosed with CP until they were toddlers.

CP is the most common physical disability in children and is often the result of a brain injury caused by either a traumatic or complicated birth, low birth weight or extreme prematurity.

The benefits of an early diagnosis mean that early interventions, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, can be introduced sooner and may help ‘re-wire’ their brains.

“These babies with brain injury have neuroplasticity in the first few months of life which early intervention therapies harness, and we are seeing that most of the infants have better functional outcomes at 2 years as a result,” said Associate Professor Atul Malhotra, Head of the Early Neurodevelopment Clinic at Monash Children’s Hospital.  

One of the babies who was assessed as high-risk of CP at 3-month-old was Maisie. She was born 10 weeks early in 2022 at Monash Children’s Hospital, weighing only 978g. With the help of early intervention and paediatric physiotherapy, Maisie is now an energetic 2-year-old who has started to walk and loves to climb. 

Mum Amanda says, “[Maisie] is head and shoulders above where she would have been.” 

“Whether it be news you don’t want to hear, mitigating the issues earlier makes it easier long term and I am so grateful the team persisted with us,” said Amanda. 

“Maisie has just turned two and I don’t know if she would be walking without [early interventions].” 

To read the study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, by PhD student and lead author, Dr Abdul Razak, visit: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2818469