Management of pain in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy: a systematic review

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2019 Mar;61(3):315-321. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14088. Epub 2018 Oct 31.


Aim: To determine the efficacy of interventions for the management of pain in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP).

Method: Electronic databases were searched from the earliest date possible to April 2018 using a mixture of subject headings and free text. Inclusion criteria comprised of studies with (1) diagnosis of CP, (2) under the age of 18 years, (3) intervention for the management of pain, (4) outcome measure of pain, and (5) studies published in English-language peer-reviewed journals.

Results: Fifty-seven studies met the eligibility criteria. Pain related to (n=number of studies): hypertonia (n=17), spastic hip disease (n=13), procedures for the management of CP (n=7), postoperative (n=18), and other (n=2). Most of the studies were of level III to level V evidence.

Interpretation: There is level II evidence to support intrathecal baclofen therapy for pain secondary to hypertonia in spastic and spastic-dyskinetic CP, and non-pharmacological interventions for procedural pain and pharmacological interventions for postoperative pain. Most studies were restricted by retrospective design and limited use of validated outcome measures. Future research is needed to explore multidisciplinary interventions for chronic pain and pain secondary to dystonia. Clinicians and researchers would benefit from a standardized approach to pain assessment.

What this paper adds: The strongest evidence exists for pharmacological treatments for postoperative pain in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP). There is moderate evidence for the efficacy of intrathecal baclofen for pain related to hypertonia in predominately spastic CP. There is a lack of standardization in the assessment of pain. There is limited evidence for multimodal and non-pharmacological strategies in paediatric CP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications*
  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Young Adult