Increasing physical function through physiatric intervention for children with paediatric neurotransmitter disorders

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Most children with paediatric neurotransmitter diseases have global functional deficits secondary to central nervous system damage. Paediatric physiatrists, working in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary team, help to improve physical function by normalizing muscle tone and improving body position. Components of spasticity, rigidity, and dystonia may all need to be considered in a comprehensive treatment programme. Complications of disordered tone include skin breakdown, pain, sleep disturbance, and dysphagia. With an integrated approach to use of medications and equipment as well as implementation of therapy and therapeutic exercise, physiatrists can help maximize functional independence for children with this group of disorders. Pharmacological treatment includes GABA-agonists including baclofen and benzodiazepines, alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, L-dopa and dopaminergic agents, and dantrolene. Intrathecal baclofen may be used in patients refractory to these medications. In addition, physicians may utilize botulinum toxin, phenol, or surgical interventions such as selective dorsal rhizotomy or tendon lengthening. Pharmacological treatment must be used in conjunction with appropriate adaptive equipment in order to maximize therapeutic benefit. Focus on function in an attempt to increase independence is targeted to improve the child's quality of life. We present a framework and rationale to the management of the functional consequences of the paediatric neurotransmitter diseases.

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