Socioeconomic factors, such as family structure, and oral motor abilities influence weight gain in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP), researchers reported. The study, “The nutritional state of children and adolescents with cerebral palsy is associated with oral motor dysfunction and social conditions: a cross sectional study,” was published in the journal BMC Neurology.
CP is thought to be one of the main reasons for poor nutrition in children, due to the severe physical impairment it causes and the condition’s association with orofacial motor functions.
Researchers selected 70 children and adolescents with CP (ages ranging from 6 to 16 years) and 129 healthy controls with sex and ages matched to CP groups, to evaluate how functional motor orofacial performance might associate with nutritional status, among other associations. The study was conducted at the University of São Paulo-Dental School, where orofacial motor analysis was performed using two different methods — the “Oral Motor Assessment Scale” (OMAS) and “Nordic Orofacial Test-Screening” (NOT-S).
Oral motor evaluation, determined by OMAS, showed that patients with CP have less ability (denoted by lower scores) when compared to healthy patients. The NOT-S instrument also revealed greater impairment. As a result, both oral motor evaluation instruments, OMAS and NOT-S, show significant correlation.
Moreover, researchers observed that enhanced oral facial functional performance favors weight gain in CP children and adolescents. This enhancement was independent of gross motor function. CP children and adolescents with dystonia (characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that cause slow repetitive movements or abnormal postures) showed mild deterioration of the oral motor function, compared to spastic ones (this group presented the highest oral motor impairment).
Socioeconomic conditions may also influence outcomes, with researchers detecting a significant association between nutritional status and the mother’s marital status.
Results suggested that CP children and adolescents’ weight gain is linked to, and may even be improved by, functional oral motor performance and social factors.