A multidisciplinary spina bifida team all in one place

Children with spina bifida can see all subspecialists in one place during a single two- or three-hour visit.

Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, has created multidisciplinary clinics so children with spina bifida — and children with other complicated conditions — can see all subspecialists in one place during a single two- or three-hour visit.

A child with spina bifida needs care from a number of specialists. As they grow up, they need to see a neurologist, urologist, spinal surgeons and more.

Families often find themselves seeing five or more physicians every few months. Traditionally, this has meant a number of different appointments on different days at different locations.

Typically, a child begins with a thorough neurological examination to assess muscle strength, movement, balance, speech, memory, nerve function in the head and neck, and other cognitive functions. The specialists then collaborate to develop a care plan to meet the unique needs of the child.

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Just as important, specialists from different disciplines meet weekly before the clinic to discuss each patient coming in that day and review any recent scans. Physicians across disciplines reach a consensus on the diagnosis, appropriate testing and procedures to be performed. Many of these clinics include support from social services, therapists and care coordinators.

The multidisciplinary team creates a custom plan for each child — from newborns to teens — to treat a wide array of conditions, including nervous system disorders, nervous system developmental issues, birth defects affecting the spinal cord and skull, and trauma to the spine and brain. The family is involved in every step, from diagnosis to treatment.

Weekly multidisciplinary clinics include epilepsy, neuroradiology, spasticity and neuro-oncology.

This unified approach to care inspires confidence and lifts a burden from caregivers, especially those who need to travel to Louisville.

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