Media/Australians unite world experts in search of best treatment for babies at high-risk of cerebral palsy

Australians unite world experts in search of best treatment for babies at high-risk of cerebral palsy

Cooling of infants at risk of CP within six hours of birth reduces mortality and development of cerebral palsy in one in six of these cases

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Australia’s top cerebral palsy experts will lead discussions at the second Cerebral Palsy Prevention and Cure Summit, hosted at the National Institute of Health by IMPACT for CP (the International Multidisciplinary Prevention and Cure Team for Cerebral Palsy) in Bethesda Maryland, USA.

The Summit on the 8th and 9th May 2013, convened by Australia’s Cerebral Palsy Alliance and The Balnaves Foundation, will investigate best practices for treating babies diagnosed with neonatal encephalopathy (NE), a condition that leads to cerebral palsy. In Australia, there are approximately 33,000 people with cerebral palsy, and around 20% of these were diagnosed with NE as newborns.

Recent studies (Hypothermia for Neonatal Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, Tagin 2012) have shown that cooling the infants within six hours of birth to 33-34 degrees Celcius for a period of 72 hours reduces mortality and development of cerebral palsy in one in six of these cases. However for the remaining 5 in 6 of these cases, additional therapeutic interventions are required.

A number of adjuvant therapies being trialled in Italy, France, Egypt and the US will be shared at the Summit. These include the use of human growth hormone EPO, magnesium sulphate and other treatments.

Currently, an estimated 17 million people around the world live with cerebral palsy.

‘The initial CP Summit in 2011 is starting to show real results, following the agreement to combine global efforts around cooling therapy for term babies at risk of cerebral palsy,’ said Neil Balnaves, Chairman of The Balnaves Foundation which is sponsoring the Summit.

‘It is real progress that evidence suggests this treatment alone may stop the development of CP in one out of every six of these babies,’ he added.

Professor Nadia Badawi from Cerebral Palsy Alliance says global collaboration at the Summit will keep researchers informed on the progress of the different approaches to treating NE.

‘Such collaboration will particularly help the five in six babies who don’t respond to cooling therapies’, Professor Badawi said. ‘We can combine our individual learnings to hopefully fast-track best practices, helping millions of at-risk babies.’

Summit delegates will also be updated on the use of video to identify babies at high risk of cerebral palsy. The General Movements Assessment (GMs) involves careful and expert examination of video recordings of babies with NE or prematurity. Abnormal GMs allow us to identify the baby as being at very high risk of cerebral palsy.

The General Movements Assessment originated in Austria and is now being used throughout Europe and several Australian states.

Cathy Morgan from Cerebral Palsy Alliance will update Summit delegates about training currently underway in NICUs throughout NSW to enable all specialists to use the General Movements Assessment.

‘The use of the General Movements Assessment in all NICUs across NSW and indeed Australia has the potential to identify babies who will benefit the most from accessing vital early intervention therapies for cerebral palsy’, Cathy said.

‘We could one day even see smart phones being used to help video at-risk babies, supporting the vital work done in intensive care units.’

Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s hosting of the 2011 and 2013 World Summits and the General Movement Assessment training of NICU specialists throughout NSW have been funded by ongoing support from The Balnaves Foundation, established in 2006 by philanthropist Neil Balnaves AO.

‘I think it is appalling that although cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood, less than $US5million worldwide was spent last year on research to find a cure’, said Mr Balnaves.

‘Breakthroughs in cerebral palsy prevention and cure will come, but not without increased Government and philanthropic support’, he said.

‘Ongoing support such as that from The Balnaves Foundation is what allows us to continue our research, ensure vital global collaboration, and ultimately drive our results’, said Professor Nadia Badawi.

T o speak with Neil Balnaves, please contact Maggie Lanham, PR Consultant for the Balnaves Foundation on 02 9975 7569 or 0412 281277.

For enquiries about Cerebral Palsy Alliance, please contact:

Jennifer Durante – Media Manager – (02) 9975 8758 / 0419 802 602

Released on 8 May 2014

The Balnaves Foundation