Meet Dr. Donnica Video Introduction TV Appearances

Diseases & Conditions Today on DrDonnica.com Clinical Trials Decisionnaires FAQs Top Tips Fast Facts Debunking Myths News Alerts Celebrity Speak Out Guest Experts Women's Health Champions Books Women's Health Resources

Mission Privacy Policy Sponsors Press Room What's New? Contact Us

This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Hope Award

Send to a Friend

Cheryl Hines Enthusiastic About 'Curbing' Cerebral Palsy

Cheryl Hines' nephew motivates her to raise awareness about cerebral palsy.
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

This past March Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines became a new mom. While her baby girl is perfectly healthy, Hines will be helping raise awareness about birth defects - particularly cerebral palsy (CP).

"It's stressful when you're pregnant because you can't help but think about the health of your baby," says Hines, who will also provide a voice in the new animated series Father of the Pride, debuting August 31 on NBC. "My sister-in-law had a baby that was premature. She wasn't due for another three months and started to feel strange. Since she had never been pregnant before, she wasn't really sure how she should feel or what she was experiencing."

Despite being reassured by her physician that she was "fine," Hines says her sister-in-law began to feel progressively worse over the course of the weekend.

"Finally on Sunday she went to the hospital," Hines recalls. "Again they told her she was fine and were going to release her when the nurse suggested they do a pelvic exam. When they did, they realized she was in labor and the baby was coming."

Hines' sister-in-law was immediately transferred to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit where she delivered a two-pound baby boy.

"He really had to fight for his life," Hines says. "And what has made it especially difficult is he has now been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He's a little over one-year-old and has a feeding tube. It has been quite an adjustment for the family."

Understanding CP

Cerebral palsy is a broad term that describes a group of chronic, non-progressive conditions that result from damage to one or more specific areas of the developing brain. This damage to the brain's motor areas prevents a person with CP from being able to control movement and posture normally. According to United Cerebral Palsy, approximately 764,000 Americans manifest one or more symptoms of the disorder.

Symptoms of CP can include:

  • Muscle spasticity and involuntary movement
  • Disturbances in gait or mobility
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Problems speaking

While researchers do not yet know the exact reason why CP occurs, approximately 70% of CP is present at birth, indicating some kind of disruption in brain development in utero. About 20% of cases begin during or shortly after the birthing process, while another 10% of CP manifests during early infancy. This "acquired" CP is often linked to brain infections or head injury caused by car accidents, falls, or child abuse.

"My sister-in-law did everything right during her pregnancy," states Hines, who just taped a segment of Celebrity Poker Challenge where she played for the March of Dimes. "She had great care and really took care of herself. So it can happen to anyone and we don't know the reasons why."

But United Cerebral Palsy cautions that there are known risk factors for CP. They include:

  • Low birth weight and/or premature birth
  • Prenatal hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
  • Intrauterine ischemic events (strokes)
  • Maternal infections such as German measles or toxoplasmosis
  • Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis
  • RH factor incompatibility between the mother and baby

"Prematurity is probably the greatest risk factor for CP," states Murray Goldstein, a neurologist and director of the United Cerebral Palsy Research & Education Foundation in Washington D.C. "Whatever is causing the uterine contractions of prematurity is also affecting the infant's brain but we just don't completely understand it yet."

Enthusiastic developments

But scientists are beginning to develop new ways of improving brain function in people with CP.

"We cannot repair the damaged brain yet," Goldstein says. "But because the brain is plastic - meaning it can create new pathways to perform functions typically performed by other regions of the brain - there is reasonable hope for improvement."

Goldstein says that particularly for very young children there is now good evidence that large parts of the brain are still "uncommitted" and that through physiotherapy other areas of the brain can be stimulated to learn the function of the lost area.

"As far as we can tell, when other areas of the brain assume these new functions they do not perform them as efficiently," Goldstein notes. "This is seen most obviously when cerebral palsy affects the hands and fingers. Even though some function can be returned, it never works as well as when the brain is uninjured."

Another symptom that dramatically impacts a person afflicted with CP is spasticity, the state of chronic contraction or stiffness of muscles. This inability to control one's muscles often makes walking extremely difficult for many children and adults with CP.

"Fortunately we now have some drugs like Botox and Baclofen that can help reduce the deficits created by spasticity," Goldstein explains. "We can inject very small amounts of Botox into the spastic muscle and it will relax. When one subsequently superimposes programs of physiotherapy on top of this muscle -- which is no longer over-contracted -- the hope is that some of the lost function can be returned."

Baclofen is another powerful drug that causes muscles to relax. But Baclofen works only in fairly high concentrations in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This can only be accomplished by surgically implanting a small pump.

According to Goldstein, the difference between the two treatments is Baclofen affects all of the nerves going to the leg. Botox only treats a specific muscle.

"Since there are now a number of methods for reducing spasticity as well as physiotherapy and other treatments designed to restore some of the lost function, early recognition and intervention are critically important," states Goldstein. "There is not yet a completely satisfactory treatment for CP, but research is continuing and advances are being made."

Hines hopes to help that research along by raising funds and awareness and has heartfelt advice for soon-to-be moms.

"A lot of women don't want to seem overly sensitive during their pregnancy, but I want expectant moms to know that if anything feels strange to listen to your body and go with your instincts," says Hines.

For more information about cerebral palsy, click here.

To reach the March of Dimes, click here.

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Created: 8/28/2004  -  John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 8/28/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

All the content contained herein is copyrighted pursuant to federal law. Duplication or use without
the express written permission of DrDonnica.com subjects the violator to both civil & criminal penalties.
Copyright © 2006 DrDonnica.com. All rights reserved.

Home | Today on DrDonnica.com | Meet Dr. Donnica | TV Appearances | Clinical Trials
Diseases & Conditions | Decisionnaires | Celebrity Speak Out | Guest Experts | Women's Health Champions
FAQs | Women’s Health Resources | Archive | Books & Tapes | Site Certification | Advanced Search
Mission | What’s New? | Press Room | Privacy Policy | Sponsors | Partners | Contact Us