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Participants needed for crebral palsy study

Media Release
14 December 2005

Participants needed for study to help children with cerebral palsy to walk

Researchers from the Department of Surgery and the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at The University of Auckland are collaborating to investigate a new hi-tech activity monitor that could identify ways to help improve the way children with cerebral palsy walk.

Lead investigator, Associate Professor Sue Stott, of the Faculty of Medical and Health Science’s Department of Surgery says the new device, called IDEEA, gives data about levels and types of body movement, and could be used to monitor the daily routines of children with cerebral palsy.

“This information could then help doctors and physiotherapists tailor surgery and treatments to improve their walking ability,” she says.

While the device has been used primarily with overweight adults overseas, it has not been used on children any where before, and this is the first time it has been used in New Zealand.

The two-year pilot study has been funded by a Health Research Council strategic development grant. The sophisticated devices cost $US 5000 each.

Associate Professor Stott will test the device on both those with cerebral palsy and those with no walking difficulties. She is looking for participants, aged between eight and 25, for the study.

“We will test to see how effective it is on children with cerebral palsy, and if it could be applied to other situations, such as measuring activity levels in overweight children,“ she says.

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by damage to the motor control areas of the brain during pregnancy or immediately after birth. Children with cerebral palsy have difficulty walking, and lack of balance and co-ordination because of poor motor control and muscle weakness. These problems generally become more accentuated as they grow older and heavier.

While the condition affects less than one percent of children in the general population, it is much more prevalent among children with very low birth-weights, where incidence runs at about five percent.

Associate Professor Stott is also a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Starship Children’s Hospital and carries out multi-level surgery to improve the walking ability of children with cerebral palsy.

“We know that our surgeries have improved the walking speed of many children, by testing them post-operatively in the University of Auckland Gait Laboratory, but we have not previously been able to objectively test the impact of surgery on their function in the community - does it mean they can climb stairs more quickly and are they using wheelchairs less often?

“The monitor will be able to give us this type of information which means we would be able to better predict the outcome of different surgeries and tailor post operative therapies more effectively.”

The monitors are worn on a waistband with sensors attached to the body and can collect data for up to two weeks. This is then downloaded through special software to give the amount of time spent running, walking, standing, sitting, lying down and climbing stairs.

Amy Hogan, a former patient of Associate Professor Stott, has cerebral palsy and will take part in the study. The 19-year-old University of Auckland student has spastic quadriplegia, and has undergone numerous operations over the years to improve her walking ability, including a marathon 13-hour session under anaesthesia in which seven different operations were carried out to adjust her gait.

It has become increasingly difficult for her to walk as she has grown older, and she says that without the operations and ongoing physiotherapy she would be confined permanently to a wheel chair.

Those interested in participating in the study can contact the researchers on Phone 373 7599 ext 82861 or by fax to 367 7159


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