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Physiotherapy Plays a Central Role in Treatment: Sopharuth’s Story

When Sopharuth* was several months old, his mother noticed that he seemed different to his siblings at that age. He had difficulty rolling over, he couldn’t sit upright and he often appeared limp. He also seemed to be having vision problems. When Sopharuth’s condition did not improve, his mother made the three-hour journey to Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) when Sopharuth was 1 year old.

In his initial Outpatient department assessment, doctors agreed that Sopharuth appeared to have a motor development delay and had been born with, or later developed, cataracts in both eyes. Sopharuth was immediately referred to the Eye Clinic and the Physiotherapy department for further diagnosis and treatment.

Tan Sethy, the Physiotherapy Team Leader recalls: “The first time we met with him we noticed poor head and trunk control: he could not lie down and sit up by himself and his posture and movement seemed abnormal for his age. He had the motor function of a much younger baby.” Further neurological assessments were conducted and Sopharuth was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a condition affecting muscle control and movement that is typically caused by a brain injury before or during birth.

While Cerebral Palsy is incurable, physiotherapy can help to manage the effects on the body and support the development of new motor skills. The AHC Physiotherapy team devised a tailored treatment plan for Sopharuth that involved muscle activation techniques to address his muscle weakness, together with manual therapy to improve mobility in his joints and muscles. Sopharuth’s mother was also taught some at-home exercises to help improve and develop Sopharuth’s motor function and movement.

Three years later and Sopharuth has made slow but steady progress with the AHC physiotherapy team. His motor development has improved and he can now control his head and trunk movement and sit upright unassisted. He has also been fitted with glasses from the AHC Eye Clinic, which has improved his vision considerably. “Our goal is for Sopharuth to be able to walk with an assisting device when he is older,” Tan Sethy says, “but it will take time. How long we cannot say. We will continue to stimulate the muscle and the motor function to help him stand up and walk.”

Just as physiotherapy will play a central role in managing Sopharuth’s condition, the AHC Physiotherapy Unit continues to work in tandem with other departments to provide holistic care and comprehensive rehabilitative services. AHC strives to treat the whole child to help them live happy, healthy lives.

*Patient’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.

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