Quadriplegia, also referred to as tetraplegia, is a condition which results in loss of function or paralysis of the muscles in the arms and legs.
Quadriplegia can be caused by Bell’s palsy, spinal cord injury, stroke, nerve diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and autoimmune disorder such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Children affected by quadriplegia have difficulty walking, swallowing, and speaking. The muscles may become very stiff or unusually relaxed resulting in body movements that are jerky and abrupt or slow and uncontrolled. The child may not react to sound and may have delayed speech and moderate to severe mental retardation.
Diagnosis begins with the doctor asking questions to gather information about any incidents that may have occurred during pregnancy or labor. Imaging tests of the brain may also be ordered:
- Ultrasounds to detect abnormalities such as bleeding or brain damage
- CT scan to reveal abnormalities
- MRI to capture the internal structure of the brain
- MRI of the spinal cord is suggested for children with spastic leg muscles and lack of bladder and bowel control
Non-surgical treatment options for quadriplegia include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, medication to relax muscle spasms, and the use of medical devices (ex: wheelchair, walker, positioning devices, braces, etc).
Surgery is only recommended when conservative treatments fail to reduce spasticity and pain.
Dorsal rhizotomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting a few nerves at the roots where they divide from the spinal cord to reduce spasticity and improve muscle movements.
Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy
A tiny pump filled with Baclofen (a muscle relaxant) is placed in the abdominal wall and the drug is pumped into the spastic muscles of the limbs.
Tendon Transfer Surgery
This procedure is performed to restore function to the hand after a spinal cord injury. The origin of the functioning hand muscle is detached and reinserted into a different bone or tendon to improve function.