Properly Selected Patients with Cerebral Palsy Benefit from Upper-Extremity Surgery

CP Image for OBuzzThe orthopaedic community has been abuzz lately with conversations about the value of interdisciplinary teamwork among clinicians and shared decision-making between patients and clinicians. The positive results of both those approaches, implemented with children and adolescents who have cerebral palsy (CP), are revealed in a clinical cohort study by Louwers et al. in the August 15, 2018 JBJS.

The authors engaged 66 patients with CP in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary screening process and shared decision-making to determine each patient’s suitability for upper-extremity surgery. Forty-four patients were deemed eligible for surgery and 39 (mean age of 15 years) underwent surgery.  Seven types of surgery were performed, depending on each patient’s predetermined goals, values, and preferences.  Seventy-seven percent of patients had surgery that consisted of flexor carpi ulnaris tendon release or transfer and adductor pollicis muscle slide plus extensor pollicis longus rerouting.

The authors itemize the preoperative and postoperative assessment tools used in the study and describe them as “suitable for selecting patients for upper-extremity surgery and for evaluating the effect of that surgery.”

The bottom line: All outcomes improved significantly after patient-specific upper-extremity surgery in those deemed suitable for it and who opted for surgery after the shared decision-making process. Most of the patients experienced clinically relevant improvement in their functional and cosmetic goals and in manual performance 9 months after their operation.

The two patients who chose nonsurgical treatment after going through the assessment and shared decision-making process did so due to a lack of motivation for the intensive postoperative rehabilitation, which began with upper-limb immobilization for 5 to 6 weeks, followed by a program customized for each patient by his or her rehabilitation physician and occupational therapist.

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