Most people associate Botox as an anti-aging treatment, but recently, although still in its experimental phase, it’s being used to help children with cerebral palsy. As with other experimental treatments, however, it comes with risks that parents should be aware of in order to make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for their child or not.
What Exactly is Botox?
Botox, also known as botulinum toxin Type B, is a prescription-based drug that’s created with the same type of bacteria that causes botulism and food poisoning. Botox is the brand name of the treatment; there are other similar products with different names, including Myobloc, Dyspot, and Xeomin.
Botox is administered via injections into the muscles in order to weaken and paralyze them. When treating muscles spasms, experts state that it may take 100 or more injections before it’s effective. However, one injection will typically last up to six months.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Botox as treatment for the following:
- Overactive bladder
- Abnormal, severe underarm sweating
- Fine line wrinkles, such as crow’s feet
- Cervical dystonia
- Uncontrollable blinking
- Severe migraines
- Misaligned eyes
In addition, the FDA allows medical providers the option of using Botox, at their own discretion, to treat “off-label” health issues, although it’s not advertised.
How Botox May Help Cerebral Palsy
Complications with Surgery
Depending on the kind and of the severity of cerebral palsy your child has, surgery is a catch-22. Your child may require orthopedic surgery so that tight muscles can be loosened and lengthened, but if you child has gag-reflex problems or esophageal problems related to the disability, anesthesia is an unwanted risk.
Instead of being caught up in the tough decision of deciding between your child’s life or you child’s ability to walk, Botox allows muscles to be loosened and lengthened without the risk of surgery or anesthesia.
Botox Loosens and Lengthens Muscles
Injecting Botox loosens muscles temporarily. This is usually at the direction of the occupational therapist, since, after the Botox injection, the muscles or sometimes a whole limb is placed into an orthopedic device that is intended to stretch the muscle into a way or shape that will be good for the child in the long run.
The cast or orthopedic device usually stays in place for a few weeks until the toxin wears off and the muscles “set” into their new placement. To accompany this treatment, your child may also be expected to preform a number of daily exercises while it’s in the cast so that the muscles around the site can grow strong and accommodate their new placement.
Some doctors say that Botox presents more flexibility with molding and shaping muscles into their proper formation than with surgery.
After Botox treatment, some children claim to be able to do things they’ve never before been able to do, such as pick up a pen, turn on the water faucet, or self-feed. All of these activities are difficult for children with cerebral palsy and they are attainable with surgery, but these activities are attainable faster and with less pain when doctors use Botox.
Are There Any Complications With Botox?
As mentioned earlier, Botox is a toxin of the food poisoning botulism, but since it is administered in small doses, it’s unlikely that the child will experience the most serious complication, which is paralysis. However, it’s important to note that plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Allergan, a California pharmaceutical company ,claimed that Botox can lead to death, which resulted in a $600 million that the company had to pay to the government for unlawful advertising.
As with any medication, there is generally a small risk of severe side effects. It’s important to speak with your physician and understand everything that the treatments entail before making a decision.
If Botox Causes Paralysis and Prevents Wrinkles, How Does it Help Cerebral Palsy?
The toxin in Botox blocks the release of a substance the nerve uses to cause the muscle to contract. Many people think that Botox helps prevent wrinkles because it tightens the face. In fact, the opposite is true: Botox helps prevent wrinkles because it relaxes the facial muscles and keeps them from contracting and causing wrinkles.
When paralysis happens, it is because too much of the toxin has been injected at one time, causing those nerves to deaden. Chances of this happening to children with cerebral palsy are extremely rare because the Botox is injected in small doses with large spans of time in between –time enough for the muscles to loosen.
Is There an Ideal Age for Botox Treatment?
Some doctors have noticed that starting children with cerebral palsy on a Botox treatment before 5 years of age had a significant change with the rapidity of their improvement. Doctors say that cerebral palsy affects children the most between ages 2 and 4 –usually the time in which cerebral palsy is diagnosed. If Botox treatments start almost immediately, children are more likely to be active, mobile, and independently walking by the time they’re 20 years old.
Is This a New and Experimental Procedure?
While some doctors still consider Botox for children with cerebral palsy experimental, it is definitely not a new procedure. In fact, some doctors have been performing this Botox treatment on cerebral palsy patients for almost twenty years.