With a condition as underdiagnosed and misunderstood as spasticity, there is bound to be a huge knowledge gap regarding the effects and nature of this complex medical issue.
West Park is doing its best to help narrow and eventually eliminate that gap with a robust amount of quality research in the works.
Charged with this mission is Dr. Chetan Phadke, a research scientist at West Park focusing on spasticity research.
Spasticity is a debilitating condition striking people with stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or other neurological conditions. It can be painful and pull joints into abnormal positions or prevent normal movement of the joints.
One only has to look at a whiteboard in Dr. Phadke’s office listing all the studies and papers underway to see how busy the spasticity researchers are.
“When I came to West Park, I had to learn the skills to manage multiple studies - to monitor the pulse of different projects,” Dr. Phadke says. Thanks to the guidance of colleagues at West Park, he does this, and also contributes on the academic side, supervising graduate research and professional clinical students, among other things.
Dr. Chetan Phadke
Dr. Phadke, West Park physiatrists Dr. Chris Boulias and Dr. Farooq Ismail and a team of other researchers have three main spasticity research goals - better understand the factors that affect spasticity, the effects of spasticity on function and balance, and how to improve the practice of injecting Botulinum toxin through best practices.
The balance problems many spasticity patients have is the focus of many studies. “We see spasticity patients have problems with balance but there is nothing in literature that connects the dots,” Dr. Phadke says.
Since Dr. Phadke began at West Park as the spasticity research scientist in 2010, a position funded through the West Park Foundation, it’s not unusual to see up to eight studies a year on the go.
Already, the medical community treating people with spasticity is taking notice. A 2012 study looked at anaesthetics to lessen the pain associated with Botulinum toxin injections. It concluded simple ice applied to the injection sites was more effective than topical creams and cooling sprays.
“That study put us on the world map,” Dr. Chris Boulias says. “People really started paying attention to West Park.”
Now, on the heels of that successful study, Dr. Phadke and his fellow researchers are embarking on a survey of 300-400 physicians across Canada who regularly conduct Botulinum toxin injections to help determine best practices for injections.
For Dr. Phadke, being at West Park with one of the largest spasticity management clinics in the country on site, working with clinicians like Dr. Boulias and Dr. Ismail, helps spasticity research efforts immensely.
“Patients are always excited about taking part in the research,” Dr. Phadke says. “They truly understand the benefits that will come.”
And given the achievements so far, there is much more to come.