Of every 10,000 children born in Bangladesh, 35 are infected with cerebral palsy, which is 1.5 times more than other countries in the world.
Most of these patients have convulsions, during which infants cannot breathe. Repeated convulsions can cause brain damage stemming from a lack of oxygen.
Speakers made the remarks at a seminar on surgical treatment of cerebral palsy at Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital in the city's Dhanmondi on Saturday.
They said that children with cerebral palsy experience intellectual challenges – they cannot walk, stiffen their necks, salivate through their mouths, eat solid foods, and have difficulty communicating. Afflicted children have smaller skulls.
In severe cases, even a liquid diet is impossible, with some children unable to see, speak, move on their own due to stiff limbs and extremities.
Not all patients will exhibit all the symptoms.
According to Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, a trustee of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, prevalence of cerebral palsy in the country is high due to poverty, illiteracy, and female neglect.
He said the condition can also be caused by malnutrition and oxygen deficiency during childbirth.
"Prevention is our first priority. But if the condition does develop, a surgical procedure at the right time can lead to a cure. Treatment is very expensive, with hospitals and clinics charging anywhere from Tk3 to 4 lakhs for the procedure. But we are providing this treatment for Tk1 lakh," he added.
During the procedure, the baby's skull and brain screen are cut, creating sufficient space for the brain to grow. As a result, the brain grows faster, attains fullness in size and other symptoms gradually disappear.
The patient's appearance and gaze normalize soon after he/she regains consciousness. Intelligence and confidence increase, and the patient is soon able to lead a normal life.
Professor Dr Faridul Islam Chowdhury, eminent neurosurgeon, and head of the department of Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital, said that the treatment for this disease is completely new.
"For cerebral palsy cases anywhere else in the world, no steps are taken for brain movements. I was the first to arrange for skull enlargement at the Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital, and successfully operated on several children with cerebral palsy," said Dr Chowdhury, who headed the team of physicians during a procedure at the hospital on November 1.
Professor Mostafa Mahbub, head of the Department of Pediatrics at the Dhaka Children's Hospital, said cerebral palsy is primarily associated with issues that arise during birth.
"About 25 lakh children are affected by this condition globally, of whom 2.5 lakh patients are in Bangladesh. Post-surgical recovery offers a new ray of hope. Due to the prohibitive treatment costs, we need to be aware of this condition before birth and accordingly build a prevention system," he added.
Among others present at the seminar were Dr Nazmul Haque, an associate professor at the National Institute of Neuroscience; Dr Mezba Uddin Ahmed, a pediatrician at Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital, and Dr Kana Chowdhury, an associate professor.