The use of botulinum toxin in pediatric disorders

Deborah Gaebler-Spira*, Gadi Revivo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Botulinum toxins have an exciting and important role in treating the child with hypertonia. The guidelines presented in this article are those that have been published representing the safe use of botulinum toxins in children. Experience and a decade of research have provided the framework for using botulinum toxins in decreasing deformity and promoting function [106-114]. In children, a window of opportunity exists with botulinum toxin that allows improved motor control and elongation of shortened muscles. Although 3 to 4 months in an adult life is short, for a child it is a relatively greater proportion of their life experience and may be long enough for skill development. The improvement noted in function after botulinum toxin use is facilitated by comprehensive rehabilitation. The pediatric physiatrist has a unique role in the management of children with cerebral palsy and other conditions with hypertonia. Their knowledge and training reflect an understanding of anatomy and development that allows accurate evaluation of specific functional problems in children related to hypertonia. The pediatric physiatrist has experience in localization of muscles by EMG, nerve stimulation, and surface anatomy. Although many other physicians inject botulinum toxins, goal-directed management is the cornerstone to the physiatrist's thinking and treatment plan. Orthopedic surgery ultimately may be the intervention of choice if persistent contracture or progression of contractures occurs. Working in collaboration with an orthopedist identifies the timing of optimal surgical intervention for alignment [115]. For persistent and severe hypertonia, the treatment team includes a neurosurgeon. All options for spasticity, such as selective posterior rhizotomy and intrathecal baclofen, should be considered. Re-evaluation of the child after selective dorsal rhizotomy or intrathecal baclofen is appropriate and should be discussed with therapists for focal intervention. Communication between members of the team and the family is desirable and frequently is one of the major contributions of the pediatric physiatrist. For children with focal hypertonia, botulinum toxins offer a dramatic but temporary repeatable change that affects rehabilitation. Research rapidly has captured the positive effect of the toxins on impairment and functional limitations. Not to be overlooked are outcomes related to quality of life [116,117]. The long-term use of botulinum toxins and the role the toxins play throughout the life span of the person with a childhood hypertonic disorder are yet to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-725
Number of pages23
JournalPhysical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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