14 Sept 2020

Medical teaching innovation yields results for infants at risk of cerebral palsy

Arrabella King. Image: Stuart Wilson
Medical student Arrabella King and infants at risk of cerebral palsy have mutually benefited from Monash University's recent innovation of a Scholarly Intensive Placement (SIP) as part of medical training in the final year of the medical MD degree.

Arrabella is based at Central Clinical School, but her SIP was supervised by School of Clinical Sciences Senior Lecturer, Dr Atul Malhotra, a consultant neonatologist at Monash Newborn, Monash Children's Hospital. She said, "I was lucky to complete my Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) degree on a different topic, under the supervision of Dr Malhotra last year and loved the research experience. The SIP project was a great opportunity to help a high-risk group of infants.  Cerebral palsy affects an average of 1 infant per 700 live births within Australia, so it's not a small problem."

Arrabella's research examined data from the Early Neurodevelopment Clinic at Monash Children's Hospital. The Early Neurodevelopment Clinic was established in 2018 based upon international guidelines for the early diagnosis of cerebral palsy in high-risk infants. This study characterised infants attending the Early Neurodevelopment Clinic and determined the rate of early cerebral palsy diagnosis.

The study published today in the Royal Australasian College of Physician’s Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health has shown that it is feasible to implement early cerebral palsy diagnosis guidelines into clinical practice at an Australian centre. As a result of the Early Neurodevelopment Clinic, high-risk infants received an early diagnosis of cerebral palsy. This facilitated access to early targeted intervention and support.

Arrabella said, "Our paper may help inform the development of further services for high-risk infants.

"By providing families with an early diagnosis of cerebral palsy, the Early Neurodevelopment Clinic helps to facilitate access to early intervention and support. Basically, the earlier the problem is identified, the sooner it is possible to help improve motor and cognitive development, and family wellbeing."

This is the first Australian study examining the implementation of early cerebral palsy diagnosis guidelines into clinical practice.

Arrabella said, “I am interested in a career in paediatrics and this SIP project allowed me to further my knowledge on an important paediatric condition. Dr Malhotra has demonstrated to me the importance of medical research and evidence-based practice and I hope to continue my involvement in medical research into the future.”

King A, Machipisa C, Finlayson F, Fahey MC, Novak I, Malhotra A. Early detection of cerebral palsy in high-risk infants: translation of evidence into practice at an Australian hospital. J Paed Child Health. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jpc.15191

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