Spastic hemiplegia is the most common type of cerebral palsy. This causes symptoms in one-half of their body — you might experience pain, muscle stiffness, and lack of muscle control.

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Spastic hemiplegia is the most common type of cerebral palsy, a chronic condition that affects movement and muscle control.

There’s no cure, but treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Your doctor might recommend physical therapy, medications, assistive devices, and bracing.

The term spastic hemiplegia describes weakness and muscle spasticity on one side of the body. So while cerebral palsy is one cause, it’s also caused by other conditions like stroke and traumatic brain injury. In this article, we will focus on spastic hemiplegia due to cerebral palsy.

Spastic hemiplegia means that one-half of the body is affected by cerebral palsy. It causes muscle weakness and lack of muscle control that can range from mild to severe. The term “spastic” describes muscle stiffness or tightness.

Like all types of cerebral palsy, spastic hemiplegia is chronic but not progressive. This means that it’s a long lasting condition, but it doesn’t necessarily get worse over time.

Spastic hemiplegia causes symptoms on one side of the body. However, these symptoms can vary, and some people may have more severe symptoms than others.

Cerebral palsy is typically diagnosed in childhood, so many of the symptoms to look out for are related to childhood development. Symptoms to be aware of include:

Some children with spastic hemiplegia will have mild symptoms and might be able to independently walk, run, and perform self-care activities.

However, other children can have more severe symptoms. They might need to use a wheelchair and need assistance with daily tasks.

Spastic hemiplegia happens when there is damage to the brain’s motor cortex. This can happen as the result of an injury, such as a brain injury during birth, or an inherited condition.

Sometimes, premature birth leads to the baby’s brain receiving less oxygen than it needs. This can lead to spastic hemiplegia.

Additional possible causes include:

  • the birthing parent having an infection
  • infant infections such as cytomegalovirus
  • complications during pregnancy or birth
  • untreated jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes

The first step in diagnosing spastic hemiplegia is a visit with a doctor. They’ll take a thorough medical history, perform a physical exam, and order some more tests.

In children, your pediatrician will ask questions about growth milestones, nutrition, motor skills, and other factors you may have observed in your child.

Testing will likely include:

  • Imaging tests: Tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds can help doctors see the brain and brainwaves for a clear picture of any damage.
  • Developmental screenings: Tests for conditions such as learning, speech, intellectual, and developmental conditions can help rule out those conditions and establish a baseline for children.
  • Reflex tests: A reflex test is often done with infants to see how they respond to stimuli.
  • Lumbar puncture: A lumbar puncture is a test done by inserting a needle into the base of the spine to remove spinal fluid.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor will order blood tests to look at genetic and metabolic factors.

While there isn’t a cure for spastic hemiplegia, treatment can help manage symptoms can improve the quality of life. The exact treatment plan will depend on individual needs, but it’ll usually include a combination of multiple therapies.

Common treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help with strength and balance and can help improve independence with daily tasks.
  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy helps with tasks such as eating, swallowing, and talking.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can teach skills that will help with everyday activities like showering, haircare, teeth brushing, and more.
  • Mobility devices: Walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and other devices can improve mobility.
  • Medications: Medication can help manage some of the symptoms of spastic hemiplegia. This typically includes medications that can help calm muscle spasms.
  • Splinting or braces: Splinting and bracing can help keep limbs steady and supported.
  • Botox injections: Botox is another option that can help relax muscles.
  • Deep brain stimulation: During this treatment, electrodes that can help control motor function are placed in the brain.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgical interventions can help. Examples include orthopedic surgeries and selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Spastic hemiplegia is a chronic condition, which means that it is ongoing. However, it isn’t progressive, so it doesn’t get worse with time.

Sometimes, growth spurts can give children with spastic hemiplegia some difficulty — but this isn’t necessarily a sign that the condition has gotten worse.

However, it’s important to be aware of potential complications that can crop up. Look out for:

Spastic hemiplegia is the most type of spastic cerebral palsy. It means that one side of the body experiences symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle stiffness, lack of muscle control, and muscle pain.

It can make it difficult to walk, write, and do many activities independently.

Treatments, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, along with medication, injections, assistive devices, and splitting, can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.