Childhood hemiplegia (also known as hemiparesis) is caused by damage to part of the brain as a result of injury or illness, causing weakness and impaired motor function to one side of the body. Each child will present differently depending on the amount of weakness and increased tone (stiffness) in their limbs, and they will usually be able to walk, but they may have a limp or difficulty with balance. Children may also have impaired hand function and associated upper limb reactions, which can either be hardly noticeable or quite severe.
Usually if the left side of the brain is damaged the child will present with difficulties on the right and vice versa. When hemiplegia happens before, during or soon after birth, it is known as congenital hemiplegia. If it occurs later in childhood as a result of an accident or illness it is called acquired hemiplegia.
Congenital hemiplegia occurs in about 4 per 10,000 live births in England and Ireland (Goodman & Yude 1996). The cause of congenital hemiplegia is generally unknown but is associated with a pre-term birth, low birth weight, traumatic birth and if the mother had health problems during pregnancy. Acquired hemiplegia later in childhood is usually as a result of a stroke, or if the child sustains a head injury in an accident.
Hemiplegia is not always picked up at birth but it may be become more apparent during early infancy when children are finding it difficult to achieve their milestones.
Signs to look out for include:
Your child does not bring their hands together in midline when playing
Your child does not put both hands in their mouth
Your child only acknowledges one side of their body and ignores the affected side
Your child does not crawl and bottom shuffles instead
Your child has difficulty pulling to stand
Your child is delayed in walking
Children with hemiplegia often present with additional difficulties and quite commonly they will also have a visual impairment, learning difficulties, epilepsy or altered sensation and body awareness.
Physiotherapy treatment will aim to work on the sensory and motor integration between both the left and right side, and to improve functional activities and gross motor skills. The physiotherapist will also be looking to reduce muscle tone, maintain muscle length and increase muscle strength, whilst being aware of potential secondary complications and trying to reduce the impact of these. The overall aim is for maximum independence and optimum quality of movement.
Has your child been diagnosed with hemiplegia? Our highly specialised are able to treat your child at home. Give us a call on 0207 884 0374 or email email@example.com to find out more on how we could help your child.