Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy in children refers to a condition that affects muscle movement. Most children with cerebral palsy have spastic cerebral palsy. This means that the muscles are stiff and rigid, making it difficult for children with cerebral palsy to control their reflexes. This is known as spasticity.

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children. Most children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy by the time they turn 2, however, children with mild symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be diagnosed until they are older, around 4 or 5 years old.

If your pediatrician suspects that your child may have cerebral palsy, your child will be referred to a neurologist who will evaluate your child’s movement and development. If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other medications and therapies prove ineffective, your child may be referred to UNC’s pediatric neurosurgery team for cerebral palsy treatment.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment

UNC Pediatric Neurosurgery works closely with pediatricians and specialists to determine the best treatment for children with cerebral palsy. The first step in your child’s treatment is to schedule an appointment with UNC Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation to determine your child’s eligibility for medical and surgical options.

If your child is a candidate for surgery, our pediatric neurosurgeons offer surgical intervention, such as the placement of a baclofen pump or selective dorsal rhizotomy, with the goal of reducing spasticity.

A baclofen pump is a small device that is surgically placed in the wall of the abdomen to deliver baclofen, a medication used to control spasticity, to the spinal canal. Since baclofen is delivered directly to the spinal canal, it is more effective in controlling spasticity than taking the medication orally.

A selective dorsal rhizotomy is performed to identify the nerve fibers in the spinal cord that are causing spasticity in children with cerebral palsy. Using electrical stimulation, our neurosurgeons are able to find and then cut the nerve roots of the spinal cord causing spasticity to relieve spasticity, reduce pain, and improve movement. Selective dorsal rhizotomy is the only surgical procedure that can provide permanent reduction of spasticity in children with cerebral palsy. This procedure is only offered by a handful of pediatric neurosurgery teams in the country.

UNC Pediatric Neurosurgery is part of the care team at the UNC Cerebral Palsy Clinic, an interdisciplinary clinic designed to provide comprehensive, coordinated care for children with cerebral palsy.


We offer weekly pediatric neurosurgery clinics in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Pinehurst, and Wilmington. Visit our pediatric neurosurgery clinic locations page for the clinic or hospital nearest you or call 919-445-2410 to schedule an appointment.

UNC Neurosurgery also offers deep brain stimulation for adult patients with dystonic cerebral palsy and other movement disorders.