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Surgery for cerebral palsy of the arm and hand

Surgery to maximise the functionality of your arm and hand while minimising pain

Young patient will have surgery for cerebral palsy of the hand
Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects movement and coordination, causing spasticity (when muscles tighten or stiffen, preventing normal movement) in one or more limbs. People with spastic cerebral palsy of the arm and hand experience symptoms including involuntary muscle contractions and stiffness and tightness in their hands. This can lead to a vicious cycle of pain, stiffness and loss of use, which often gets worse over time.

Carefully planned and timed surgery for cerebral palsy of your arm and hand can break this cycle by rebalancing your limb, particularly if carried out in childhood. This is a specialist operation offered only in a few centres worldwide.

If you or your child are living with the difficult symptoms of cerebral palsy and would like to speak to a specialist about whether surgery could help, call our team today on 0141 300 5009 to find out more.

Please note that we cannot accept online bookings for patients under 18 years of age, so please give us a call our use our live chat option.

The aim of this type of surgery is to restore or maximise function in your arm and hand to allow you to use your hand more freely.

Reduced function in your limbs can be one of the most difficult elements of living with cerebral palsy, and this surgery aims to increase your ability to use your hand. The other benefits of this surgery can include pain relief and reduced spasticity and muscle stiffness.

Practically, the surgery can offer many benefits for people with cerebral palsy in their arms and hands. For example, you might be able to dress or be dressed more easily if your hand is unclenched, and the same can go for washing. Successful muscle lengthening can allow children with cerebral palsy to grasp objects more easily and help facilitate the development of their fine motor skills.

This type of surgery is generally appropriate for people with spastic cerebral palsy, though it might also be appropriate in some instances of dyskinetic cerebral palsy, or where a person has mixed cerebral palsy with symptoms of spasticity.

Surgery for cerebral palsy in the arm and hand can involve one or more of a range of operations that all aim to re-balance your arm and hand. These might include:

Muscle lengthening

Surgery to lengthen the muscles in your arm, hand or fingers can significantly improve your ability to grasp objects and release them and improve your fine motor skills.

Tendon lengthening

An operation to lengthen your tendons can reduce the painful contractures that can happen as a result of tightened tendons or muscles in your arm.

Correcting a tight elbow

A number of techniques can be used to improve the range of motion in your elbow and reduce tightness. This will often involve some sort of muscle lengthening procedure.

Improving wrist flexibility

A tendon transfer, where your existing tendon is cut and replaced, is one option to improve your ability to extend and flex your wrist.

For most people, surgery for cerebral palsy of the arm and hand will involve a combination of the above procedures.

Everyone’s recovery timeline will be different and will depend on various factors personal to you, for example which specific procedure you had and how complicated the surgery was, as well as your age and overall health.

You will usually be in hospital for one night, though some people will need to stay longer. Once your care team decide it's the right time for you to go home, they will stay in touch regularly to make sure your aftercare and recovery goes smoothly. If you have an existing care team local to you, we will liaise with them from the start of the treatment process, making sure everyone involved in your care is fully informed of the process.

The initial healing after surgery typically takes two to four weeks. After this you will need to continue your aftercare exercises and physiotherapy programme for between six and 12 months (depending on the severity of the initial problem). This is likely to include a scar care routine that will be taught to both you and your carers.

Any operation has potential complications, though the risks are uncommon with this type of surgery. They include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection at the wound site
  • Significant scarring
  • Damage to surrounding structures or nerves

Side effects that happen specifically after this type of surgery include:

  • Post-operative swelling
  • Post-operative stiffness

We always insist on a rigorous programme of aftercare to maximise healing and recovery. Our team of physiotherapists works with all our patients to minimise the severity of these side effects and encourage the fastest possible recovery.

If you would like to speak with a specialist about how hand and arm surgery could help you or your child to reduce the symptoms of cerebral palsy, call us today to speak to one of our dedicated advisors.

This type of surgery is very specialist and only certain consultants will be able to perform it, some of whom you will see at the bottom of this page. To be sure you arrange a consultation with the right specialist for you, it's best to call us rather than booking online. This is especially important if you are booking for your child, as our online booking system is not suitable for paediatric appointments.

However, if you are booking for yourself or for another adult, and you know which specialist you would like to see, please do take advantage of our easy online booking portal.

When you choose to have surgery with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs  
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard 
  • Tasty and nutritious meals cooked onsite to your dietary requirements
  • Support from the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end  
  • A dedicated children and young person’s service for under 18s

If you want to know more about this type of surgery, call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in November 2022. Next review due November 2025.

  1. Surgery for cerebral palsy, Cerebral Palsy Guide
  2. Spastic cerebral palsy, Cerebral Palsy Alliance
  3. Spastic cerebral palsy, Cerebral Palsy Guide
  4. Cerebral palsy treatment, NHS

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