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A hemispherectomy is a surgical procedure on the brain. A hemispherectomy can be used to treat seizure disorders in children, such as epilepsy.

The brain is naturally made up of two halves, called “hemispheres”, which are connected by a thick band of nerves called the corpus callosum. Seizure activity in the brain can be identified as originating from a particular side and area of the brain. In a hemispherectomy, the area of the brain causing seizure activity can be removed.

Young child plays during an activity with a CIMT physiotherapist

Anatomical hemispherectomy: In an anatomical hemispherectomy, an entire hemisphere (half) of the brain is removed. This is considered to be an extreme procedure but with a good success rate for preventing further seizures.

Functional hemispherectomy: In a functional hemispherectomy, parts of one hemisphere are removed and the link between the two sides – the corpus callosum – is cut so that the two sides of the brain cannot communicate with each other. This stops any seizure activity spreading across the whole brain.

Effects of a hemispherectomy: The result of a hemispherectomy will be hemiplegia, which is weakness down one side of the body. Each half of the brain controls movement in the opposite half of the body, for example the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. So if a hemispherectomy is performed on the right side of the brain, the result will be left sided weakness.

The brain can recover well following a hemispherectomy despite the severity of the procedure. However, because one side of the body will be weaker, the child may compensate by using the stronger side of their body for most functional activities and neglect to use their weaker side.

Rehabilitation following hemispherectomy: Constraint induced movement therapy can help to improve the weakness caused by a hemispherectomy by providing an intensive period of time to focus on the affected side and improve the strength, dexterity and amount of use of the arm.

Constraint induced movement therapy has been shown to achieve meaningful results that will last and allows the child to use their affected side in everyday life. If your child has had a hemispherectomy and you would like to discuss CIMT further, contact us for a free telephone consultation with one of our specialist CIMT therapists.

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