Children with cerebral palsy and other neurological problems often have extremely poor eyesight. Their ability to read, pick up objects and "see" the world is so impaired and complicated to treat that many go untreated, even though they may be legally blind.
Janice Brunstrom, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Loius and a neurologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital, saw firsthand how her patients' poor vision interfered with every aspect of their daily lives. Having cerebral palsy herself and wanting to help reverse the isolation that many of these children endure because of their poor vision, she approached pediatric ophthalmologist Lawrence Tychsen, M.D., to help devise some solutions.
He did. Tychsen, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, of pediatrics and of neurobiology and ophthalmologist in chief at St. Louis Children's Hospital, developed specialized testing and now does vision correction, or refractive surgery, on children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and neurobehavioral disorders such as autism. To date, St. Louis Children's Hospital is one of the only U.S. medical centers performing refractive surgery on these children and has the highest volume, operating on about 60 special-needs children a year.
"We work with the most profoundly impaired children who are the most difficult to examine," says Tychsen, also professor of anatomy and neurobiology and of pediatrics. "So we tend to have the most grateful parents, too."
When Brunstrom talked with Tychsen about repairing the vision in these children, he readily agreed and made room for them in his busy clinical schedule.
"These are kids who were legally blind and whom everyone had given up on," Brunstrom says. "One by one, he has restored their sight by going through every detail and figuring out what is wrong and what he can fix. He is willing to tackle situations that use
Contact: Beth Miller
Washington University School of Medicine