Neuromuscular Disorders Program

The Neuromuscular Disorders Program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers collaborative, multidisciplinary care for a variety of neuromuscular disorders.

What are neuromuscular disorders?

In addition to helping kids run and jump, muscles pump blood throughout the body (the heart), allowing them to speak and breathe and more. Because we rely upon our muscles to do so much of what makes life enjoyable or even possible, it is important that any problems be treated by specialists as soon as they are suspected.

Neuromuscular disorders are a collection of diseases characterized by muscle or nerve dysfunction. These diseases may be related to how the nerves function, communicate with muscles, or a problem with the muscles themselves. Whatever the cause, muscle weakness, numbness, and/or pain may result.

Treating your child’s condition early is the best way to ensure he or she is able to live as active a life as possible.

Neuromuscular disorders we treat

The neurologists in the Neuromuscular Program at Children’s work with a variety of other specialists, including physiatrists (rehab physicians), pulmonologists, physical and occupational therapists, cardiologists, genetics counselors, orthopedic specialists, physician assistants, nurses, social workers and mobility experts, all to give your child the very best care available.

Our specialists treat the full range of neuromuscular disorders, including:

Warning signs of neuromuscular disorders

  • Clumsy movement
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Frequently tripping and falling
  • Unable to jump or hop normally
  • Tip-toe walking
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty sitting or getting up

Diagnosis & treatment

At Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, after we evaluate your child’s medical history, we conduct a physical examination and test his or her reflexes. Our specialists may perform blood tests, specialized DNA tests, pediatric EMG/NCV, and/or remove small amount (biopsy) of effected nerves or muscles for direct examination.

We begin by conducting a thorough history and physical exam, with the latter focusing on a neuromuscular examination that includes assessment of strength, coordination, sensation, and reflexes. Based on the physician's findings, they may recommend additional evaluations such as blood tests including genetic testing, an electrocardiogram, or electrodiagnostic testing. Electrodiagnostic testing includes nerve conduction studies and electromyography. These are detailed, quantitative tests of nerve and muscle and are an extension of the clinical examination. This testing is performed by neurologists specially trained in the procedure and experienced in testing in children. In some instances, a biopsy of the muscle or nerve may be recommended to help make a diagnosis. These biopsies are all read and interpreted by Children's staff who have special expertise in neuromuscular disorders.

An electromyogram (EMG) will be used to determine if weakness stems from the muscle or the nerves, and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) will determine whether or not the heart muscle has been damaged. This is all in an effort to provide the most accurate diagnosis for targeted treatment that is as unique as your child.

Depending on the specifics of your child’s condition and your input as a parent, a variety of treatments may be recommended. Our cutting-edge treatments include plasmapheresis and immunoglobulin therapies, which help in auto-immune disorders like myasthenia gravis.

We also offer psychological counseling, and have a wide variety of equipment that will improve your child’s mobility and allow him or her to build confidence through independent movement.