Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is common in children and infants. This disease affects the muscle movement, which, in turn, restricts growth in children. In SMA, the child experiences nerve cells breakdown both in the spinal cord and brain. This stops the brain from sending messages related to normal muscle movement. It leads the muscles to shrink and get weaker. It would also prevent them from sitting or walking without support or managing head movements on their own. When the disease progresses, the child might experience difficulty breathing and swallowing as well.
SMA can occur in different forms, and depending on the severity, the common treatment procedures for spinal muscular atrophy would vary. There’s no particular cure for the disease, but treatment can help the child live a better quality of life.
This is a treatment measure that alters the SMN2 gene and nudges it to produce more protein. This is a common treatment for both children and adults. In this, the medical team will inject a drug into the spinal cord fluid. The entire process, including the preparation, injection, and recovery time, would take about two hours. The process will have to be repeated a couple of times, and there would need to be consistent sessions every four months. In 40% of the patients, the medication is effective and slows down the disease’s impact.
- Onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi
In this, the problem gene SMN1 is replaced. It is a common treatment done for children below the age of two. The medical team will insert a catheter in the vein of the hand or the arm and send it across a replacement SMN gene via the tube into some particular motor neuron cells. This treatment is done just once.
In addition to these common treatment procedures for spinal muscular atrophy, the doctor will also give you some alternative ways for disease management. These include:
- Swallowing and nutrition aids
Because of SMA, the muscles of the throat and the mouth are weak. This makes it hard for the baby to suck and swallow. It will result in poor growth and nutrition. In this case, the affected person would either be given a feeding tube or will need help from a nutritionist.
- Breathing apparatus
The weak muscles prevent the air from moving through the lungs. When that happens, the child will need a mouthpiece or a mask.
- Back issues/surgery
With SMA, a child might experience a curve in the spine. To overcome this, the doctor will recommend a back brace when the spine is in the growing stage. If the growth is complete, the child will have to undergo surgery to correct this abnormality.
- Movement aids
The child might be given occupational and physical therapy to keep the muscles growing and to make them stronger. Assistive devices like a walker, leg braces, or an electric wheelchair might also be recommended.