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Research & Clinical Trials

Cerebral Palsy Center at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

1600 Rockland Road, Wilmington, DE, USA 19803 | Get Map & Directions »


Pioneering Pediatric CP Research Testing & Treatment

One way you can know that your child is getting the very best cerebral palsy (CP) care is by the quality of the research that our cerebral palsy team conducts. Our Cerebral Palsy Center at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital is currently involved in numerous projects related to the treatment and care of cerebral palsy patients. This includes clinical trials, retrospective studies (looking at patient experiences from the past) and prospective studies (asking for permission to collect data as it occurs during standard care).

One area of focus for our Cerebral Palsy Center research is when to treat a child with cerebral palsy conservatively and when to recommend surgical treatment — an area in which we’ve been a worldwide leader for more than 20 years.

 
Wide-Ranging Research

You might be surprised at the breadth of our research activity. Currently, our Cerebral Palsy Center physicians are involved in more than 30 studies, including the following areas:

  • baclofen pump — a pump used to treat muscle spasticity (tightness)
  • basic science (research performed in the lab on cells and tissues, as opposed to research done in the clinical setting with patients)
  • biobank tissue (bone, muscle and ligament) analysis and relationship to cerebral palsy diagnosis
  • orthotics and prosthetics
  • conservative and surgical treatment techniques and the effect on patient-centered outcomes
  • fitness
  • gait and motion analysis (gait is how a person walks)
  • genetics
  • infection rate
  • medical imaging (X-ray and MRI)
  • mortality
 
iPad Data Collection for Important Analysis

At the Cerebral Palsy Center, we’re building a neuromuscular database using new tablet technology to collect clinical and outcomes data. The goal is to better understand the natural history of the disease. The database works with our comprehensive electronic medical records system so that we have an understanding of each patient’s overall medical condition. When finished, the database will allow our clinicians to more easily see changes over time related to patient diagnoses, and to provide evidence-based treatment decisions.

 
External Collaborators

The Cerebral Palsy Center works with a number of collaborators from outside the Nemours children’s health system, including investigators from:

Related Labs

A number of labs at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children take part in cerebral palsy-related research with the Cerebral Palsy Center.

 
Gait Analysis Laboratory

A significant amount of the Cerebral Palsy Center’s research is completed in the Gait Analysis Laboratory (sometimes called the “Gait Lab”), which averages about 600 patients per year. The medical director of the lab since 1993, Freeman Miller, MD, works with a clinical and research team composed of other physicians, physical therapists, engineers and biomechanists. Engineers specially trained to apply the laws of mechanics and physics to the human body, the biomechanists:

  • run the hardware and software necessary for data collection
  • process the data to generate graphics for the final report
  • maintain the wide array of technical equipment in the lab
Testing at the Gait Analysis Laboratory may include the following types of analysis:
  • movement of various joints
  • how the muscles contract
  • pressure on the limbs
  • the amount of energy required to make changes in a child’s gait

Learn More About the Gait and Motion Analysis Lab
 
Center for Pediatric Clinical Research and Development (CPCRD)

This center fosters the development of state-of-the-art clinical and translational research (which turns findings from basic science into practical applications to improve patient health). Under the direction of Robert Akins, PhD, the center investigates physical impairments in children with cerebral palsy and other neuro-orthopedic conditions. Specifically, CPCRD is looking at advanced therapies, improved diagnostics and early interventions that can improve the quality of life for patients with cerebral palsy.

 
The Center for Orthopedics Research and Development (CORD)

This center works closely with the Department of Orthopedics to develop devices and methods that directly impact children with musculoskeletal and orthopedic disabilities. CORD strives to produce tangible benefits for children by partnering with companies and obtaining grants, and collaborates with regional academic institutions including Drexel University, the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania. CORD also works closely with the Gait Analysis Laboratory at duPont Hospital for Children.

Our research efforts are focused within the Pediatric Engineering Research Laboratory (PERL). PERL has received several patents, including the WREX (Wilmington Robotic EXoskeleton), which allows children with weakness to move their arms in three-dimensional space in front of them.

The lab also developed a type of back brace that’s now used to treat scoliosis in kids all over the world, called the Wilmington Brace. With the help of X-ray imaging, every Wilmington Brace is created specifically to fit each patient.

To be worn with the Wilmington Brace is another of the lab’s patents, the Cricket. This is a one-of-a-kind “compliance monitor” — an electronic sensor to help us and the kids we treat keep track of how often they’re wearing the brace. In this way, we can make sure they’re getting the most out of it every day.

Principal Investigators

The Cerebral Palsy Center’s research team includes the following physicians from Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children:

 
Freeman Miller, MD

Dr. Freeman Miller is an internationally known specialist in cerebral palsy (CP), and founded the CP program and the Gait Analysis Laboratory at duPont Hospital for Children. He authored the book, Cerebral Palsy (Freeman Miller/Springer) for medical professionals and Cerebral Palsy: A Guide for Caregiving (Miller, Bachrach/Hopkins Press), which is directed toward families and caregivers. Dr. Miller is currently the medical director of the Gait Analysis Laboratory and a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at duPont Hospital for Children, as well as a professor at the Medical Center of Delaware and Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Physicians visit from all around the world to observe his clinical practice and to attend educational programs.

Dr. Miller also serves as an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and as both associate research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Physical Education at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Miller is a graduate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and completed his surgical training at the University of Colorado Medical Center. He completed his residency in orthopedics at the University of Virginia Medical Center and a fellowship in pediatric orthopedics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario.

Dr. Miller is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Miller is a member of numerous professional societies and is currently a member of the board of directors for the Commission for Motion Analysis Accreditation, where he also served as president for four years.

He has served as past president of the Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society and is currently an Editorial Board Member of Gait and Posture, the Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics and the Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation. His distinctions include being listed in Best Doctors in America and U.S. News & World Report Top Doc, as well as receiving a lifetime achievement award for the treatment of cerebral palsy from the Royal College of Surgeons of Scotland. The prestigious American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) presented him with their 2013 Mentorship Award, which recognizes an individual showing outstanding leadership for trainees and colleagues related to cerebral palsy (CP) and other developmental disabilities, including the nominee’s contribution to and impact on improving services and care, as well as promoting professional education and research. Dr. Miller is also actively involved in research and has authored more than 100 research publications in peer-reviewed journals.

He has written 11 book chapters and has authored several books for the education of medical professionals as well as parents and nonmedical caretakers of children with cerebral palsy. As part of his focus on education, he trains residents, fellows and visiting observers, and is frequently invited to teach and lecture at national and international courses, institutions and educational symposia.

Dr. Miller has a large national practice devoted entirely to the care of children with cerebral palsy. His research interests are cerebral palsy and gait analysis.


View Professional Profile »  |  Read Curriculum Vitae (CV) »

 
Kirk W. Dabney, MD

Dr. Kirk W. Dabney is the division chief of the Cerebral Palsy Center and a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at duPont Hospital for Children, as well as a provisional staff member in orthopedic surgery at the Medical Center of Delaware. Dr. Dabney also serves as an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington.

Dr. Dabney completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton University and earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. He completed a surgical internship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a residency at Howard University in Washington. He completed research and clinical fellowships at duPont Hospital for Children.

Distinctions include acceptance into the American Orthopaedic Association and Best Doctors in America. Dr. Dabney is an active member of national specialty societies, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. He has authored more than 55 peer-reviewed publications and more than 20 book chapters, and was the associate editor of the book, Cerebral Palsy (Freeman Miller/Springer). He also serves as a reviewer for two medical journals.

Dr. Dabney is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. His research interests include cerebral palsy, neuromuscular scoliosis and orthopedic problems related to hematologic (blood) disorders.


View Professional Profile »  |  Read Curriculum Vitae (CV) »

 
Justin R. Connor, MD

Dr. Justin R. Connor is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at duPont Hospital for Children. He is a graduate of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Connor completed an orthopedic surgery residency at Howard University Hospital in Washington, and received advanced training in pediatric orthopedic surgery with the completion of a fellowship at duPont Hospital for Children.

He has been formally trained in gait analysis and neuromuscular orthopedics and is a candidate member to the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. Dr. Connor’s research interests include cerebral palsy, gait analysis, spina bifida, orthopedic manifestations of neuromuscular disorders and pediatric trauma.


View Professional Profile »  |  Read Curriculum Vitae (CV) »

 
Peter G. Gabos, MD

Dr. Peter G. Gabos is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at duPont Hospital for Children and an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

He graduated from the New York University School of Medicine and completed his training in general surgery and residency in pediatric orthopedics at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. He completed a clinical fellowship in pediatric orthopedic surgery at duPont Hospital for Children.

Dr. Gabos is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He has published extensively in the orthopedic literature, and is a member of several internationally renowned study groups for chest wall and spinal deformity.

He is a credentialed vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib (VEPTR) surgeon. Dr. Gabos has been named a Patient’s Choice Award winner by patientschoice.org every year since 2007.

His research interests include scoliosis and surgical correction of severe and complex spinal deformities, thoracic insufficiency syndrome and neuromuscular diseases (such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and Rett syndrome).


View Professional Profile »  |  Read Curriculum Vitae (CV) »

Conferences & Papers

The Cerebral Palsy Center physicians associated with CP research have presented at the following national and international orthopedic conferences within the past five years:

The program is active in publishing papers on specific areas of CP research and treatment, with 42 published papers on CP in the past seven years alone.


View Our Presentations and Conference Activity »


Orthopedic Research

Nemours has been and continues to be a pioneer in pediatric orthopedic research and medical care. Learn More »