What is Neuropalliative Care?

Posted On: Jun 24, 2013

By Scott Schwantes, M.D.

As a specialty-care pediatric hospital focused on treating children with disabilities, the patients we see at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare have conditions that are complex — and, in many cases, lifelong. That’s why, at Gillette, we focus on interventions that will not only improve our patients’ health, but maintain their enjoyment of life.  Our neuropalliative care team can help families plan and manage the serious symptoms of complex conditions. We’re here to support families as they define goals, and make treatment decisions, for their child.

Palliative care, by definition, describes medical care focused on providing relief from symptoms, discomfort, or stress caused by a serious illness. Traditionally, this has meant supporting patients who have childhood cancer.  But it’s also been estimated that, of the children who could benefit from palliative care services in the U.S., nearly half are living with neurological, degenerative, or genetic conditions — the exact type of patients we see at  Gillette.

At Gillette, we’ve developed our palliative care services to meet the ongoing needs of children who have long-term neurodevelopmental impairments — hence the term neuropalliative care.  Children with a wide variety of medical conditions can benefit. Just a few examples include patients with Rett syndrome and other genetic disorders, neuromuscular conditions, traumatic brain injuries, and cerebral palsy.

It’s important for families to know that neuropalliative care doesn’t mean end-of-life care — though we’re prepared to support families when difficult decisions arise.  It’s ultimately about maximizing our patients’ enjoyment of life and making the most of time spent with family. To learn more about Gillette’s neuropalliative care services, visit our website.

Scott Schwantes, M.D., is a pediatrician board-certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He leads the neuropalliative care consultative team at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.