Perinatal stroke is the leading cause of hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Research by NIHR Career Development Fellow Dr Anna Basu shows potential for improving long-term motor outcomes in affected infants through a new approach, early therapy in perinatal stroke (eTIPS).
Dr Basu from Newcastle University is an Honorary Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at the Great North Children’s Hospital and a member of our Supporting Children and Families theme.
Through an NIHR funded research study, she led a multidisciplinary team investigating the feasibility and acceptability of the eTIPS intervention.
The project started with a review of practice in management of perinatal stroke in northern England. The research team then devised therapy materials for parents of affected infants and conducted focus groups of parents and health professionals. The groups evaluated and revised the materials, helped researchers to identify and overcome potential barriers to uptake and discussed how the intervention might fit with their roles. Newcastle-based charity Tiny Lives provided funding for further resource development, including a website with explanatory videos, as parents requested.
Next, a feasibility study recruited parents, carers and therapists to pilot the eTIPS approach, by treating babies daily at home until they reached six months. Supplementary funding came from the NIHR’s research capability funding, and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Healthcare Charity.
A research assistant conducted observations and in-depth interviews to explore the experience of families and therapists. This showed that eTIPS was feasible to deliver and accepted by families.
The impact of the research
The eTIPS approach presents a new opportunity to improve long-term outcomes for children with perinatal stroke, through timely intervention. It has broad potential reach by using low-cost, readily accessible online materials. There is scope for further resource development and online peer support, shown to improve the effectiveness of web-based interventions.
However, early intervention requires early identification and referral of affected infants. There is still work to be done here, and Dr Basu collaborates with a number of partners on training and awareness initiatives.