Health Team

Computers Help in Countering Effects of Cerebral Palsy

Posted April 18, 2008 1:09 p.m. EDT
Updated April 18, 2008 8:57 p.m. EDT

— Cerebral palsy makes if difficult for the brain to control body motion, and it can take away a child's ability to walk. Computers may be used to keep kids on their feet, however.

State-of-the-art technology has helped Alex Weinstein walk. He was born with cerebral palsy, and his condition was getting worse.

“I was always falling at school and at home,” Alex said.

Eventually, he would need a wheelchair.

“He seemed to get shorter and shorter as he was getting older because his legs were bowing more,” said Shelley Weinstein, Alex’s mother.

Dr. David Scher, with the Hospital for Special Surgery, said he knew an operation could help, though it wasn't clear exactly where on the legs and feet to target. The solution, he determined, was motion analysis.

Digital cameras record the positions of reflective markers taped to the body and send information to a computer. It gives doctors a 360-degree view, “as if we were looking at them from the front, from the side and from the top down all simultaneously,” Scher said.

Last year, Alex had complex surgery. His legs and feet were rotated while his hamstrings and hip muscles were lengthened. After a long recovery, he was learning to walk with his new, straighter legs.

“They measured him, and he was a little bit taller than me,” Shelley Weinstein said.

Alex has started to move faster. The best news is that his condition won't get any worse.

While motion analysis is not available everywhere, it is getting more popular. However, it is not always covered by insurance.