Seattle Children’s is one of the top treatment destinations in the country for children with cerebral palsy, a distinction made possible by the collaboration and expertise of surgeons and physicians.

Families of children with cerebral palsy seeking treatment at Seattle Children’s have access to a breadth of expertise unique to the Pacific Northwest.

The Cerebral Palsy Program includes a complete array of specialists. An orthopedic surgery team, which includes seven surgeons experienced in lower extremity, two surgeons experienced in upper extremity and four surgeons experienced in spine, performs single-event multilevel orthopedic surgery (SEMLS) along with a number of other procedures to address high tone and shortened muscles.

The program’s nationally and internationally recognized neurosurgeons have expertise in intrathecal baclofen pumps, selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) and hemispherectomy for children with intractable seizures.

Success starts with collaboration

“Successfully treating children with cerebral palsy requires a comprehensive, collaborative program that involves providers across an entire hospital,” says Dr. Suzanne Yandow, chief of Pediatric Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s and professor of orthopedic surgery at UW Medicine. “We work together as a team to evaluate patients and select the right course of treatment. We want children to have the highest chance of functional improvement.”

Evaluations begin with providers at a rehab or combined ortho-rehab clinic or with Seattle Children’s Tone Management Program meeting with patients and families to see whether they might benefit from a nonsurgical option such as bracing, therapy, casting, oral medications or localized injections, or whether they need surgery.

“Because of this interdisciplinary approach, I can see a child at the same time with Dr. Yandow or another member of the team, and while we all may be evaluating the same child, we think about the exam differently,” says Dr. Susan Apkon, director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Seattle Children’s. “This unique approach allows us to work together to problem-solve and develop a plan that makes the best sense for that child at that time.”

Refining recovery

Individualized rehabilitation plans are created for each patient who undergoes surgery. In many cases, those plans begin with intensive inpatient therapy.

“The intensity of our inpatient stays, under the supervision of our medical team and expertise of our therapy team, is unique,” Apkon says. “In the community, these kids might get therapy a couple times a week. Here, they’re getting three hours or more a day. It really provides the child and the family the support they need post-operatively – support they may not get if a child goes home a few days after surgery.”

At Seattle Children’s, a child’s average length of stay for inpatient rehab is 13.9 days for SDR/SEMLS, compared with 21.2 days at similar facilities.

Once a child does leave Seattle Children’s, the team collaborates with community therapists and providers to assure the child continues to receive the services they need to achieve the best outcome from their surgery.

“Kids with cerebral palsy function at different levels and thus have unique needs,” Apkon says. “Our global approach focuses on maximizing their functional abilities and improving their quality of life.”

Call 206-987-7777 for provider-to-provider patient consults and visit the Cerebral Palsy page to learn more.