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.
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
- gait and motion analysis (gait is how a person walks)
- infection rate
- medical imaging (X-ray and MRI)
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.
The Cerebral Palsy Center works with a number of collaborators from outside the Nemours children’s health system, including investigators from:
A number of labs at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware take part in cerebral palsy-related research with the Cerebral Palsy Center.
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. A clinical and research team composed of physicians, physical therapists and engineers work with biomechanists, who are 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
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.
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 Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
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.
The Cerebral Palsy Center’s research team includes the following physicians from Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware:
Dr. Kirk W. Dabney is the division chief of the Cerebral Palsy Center and a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware, 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 Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
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.
Justin R. Connor, MD
Dr. Justin R. Connor is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware. 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 Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
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.
Dr. Peter G. Gabos is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware 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 Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
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).
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:
- American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM)
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
- European Paediatric Orthopaedic Society (EPOS)
- Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society (GCMAS)
- Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA)
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.