How is spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) treated?

There is currently no cure for spinal muscular atrophy. Treatment for children affected with SMA is focused on treating their symptoms, preventing complications, and improving their quality of life. Your doctor will be able to determine the best treatment for your child based on the type of SMA, the severity of the condition, and his or her age.

For those with Type 1 SMA, treatments can include feeding tubes and ventilators and other forms of respiratory assistance. Physical therapy may also benefit patients with Type 1 SMA. Many patients with this type of spinal muscular atrophy may spend most of their lives in the hospital. At some point, parents may be asked to make very difficult decisions about the use of life-sustaining devices for their child.

Your doctor or the hospital's social services department should be able to put you in touch with support groups such as Cure SMA for help in dealing with these extremely difficult decisions.

For those with Type 2 and Type 3 SMA, treatments may include orthopedic braces, wheelchairs, and physical and occupational therapies.

It is important to remember that the brains of those with spinal muscular atrophy develop normally. Many patients with SMA are highly intelligent and sociable. Talking to them, playing games, and providing other forms of mental stimulation can aid the emotional and physical lives of these children.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/24/2015.

References

  • Darras BT, Markowitz JA, Monani UR, De Vivo DC. Spinal muscular atrophies. In: Darras BT, Jones HR, et al, editors. Neuromuscular Disorders of Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Academic Press, an imprint of Elsevier; 2014: Chap 8.
  • Amato AA, Russell JA. Spinal Muscular Atrophies. In: Amato AA, Russell JA. eds. Neuromuscular Disorders, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2015.
  • Genetics Home Reference. Spinal muscular atrophy Accessed 11/24/2015.
  • National Human Genome Research Institute. Learning About Spinal Muscular Atrophy Accessed 11/24/2015.
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Spinal muscular atrophy Accessed 11/24/2015.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy