Neuromuscular Disorders

Neuromuscular disorders prevent normal communication between nerves and the brain, typically impairing muscle movement. Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Network offers advanced diagnosis and testing for neuromuscular disorders, providing high quality, compassionate treatment that enhances your child’s quality of life.

Why Choose Mary Bridge for Neuromuscular Disorder Care?

Families across the area come to us for diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders. We offer:

  • Highly qualified specialists: All of our specialists are board-certified in both pediatrics and neurology. We see a large number of patients every year, giving us special expertise in diagnosing a wide range of neuromuscular disorders.
  • Convenient care: Our locations across the Tacoma area allow families to spend more time at home rather than traveling to access treatment.
  • Personalized support: We know that living with muscular disease can be difficult for children and families, which is why we give you extra support to meet your child’s many needs. Our personal health partners (PHPs) include a nurse and social worker to answer questions and help you through the process, so you always have a familiar face to turn to. In addition, our complex care team helps coordinate details of treatment among different specialists and support services.

Neuromuscular Disorders We Treat

All of our specialists are experienced, board-certified pediatric neurologists with expertise in treating neuromuscular disorders, including:

  • Motor neuron disorders such as spinal muscle atrophy (SMA), a disease that affects muscle movement
  • Peripheral nerve disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an inherited disorder that causes pain and worsening muscle weakness. These disorders also cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition where the immune system damages the nerves and ultimately causes paralysis.
  • Neuromuscular junction disorders such as juvenile myasthenia gravis and botulism. Juvenile myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness. Botulism is a disorder caused by foodborne bacteria that can lead to paralysis or death.
  • Muscle disorders that include Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), congenital muscular dystrophy and myotonic dystrophy. Muscular dystrophies are genetic disorders that cause muscle wasting and weakness that worsens over time. We also treat muscle disorders that include congenital myopathies and myositis. Myopathies often cause temporary weakness in a specific area, while myositis affects connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments.

Find out more about the  neurological conditions we treat.

Diagnosing Neuromuscular Disorders

At Mary Bridge, we use leading-edge technology to ensure an accurate diagnosis for your child, so we can develop an effective treatment plan. Our pediatric neurologists use several types of evaluations and tests to diagnose neuromuscular disorders, including:

  • Blood tests: Your child’s doctor may order a blood test to rule out other conditions. Genetic testing can also help specialists provide a diagnosis.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): This type of scan uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create detailed images of internal structures. For an MRI, your child will lie on a small table that slides into a tunnel-shaped machine. An MRI takes approximately 40 minutes, possibly longer when a child requires sedation. We have technology available so your child can watch a movie during the MRI.
  • Lumbar puncture: Also called a spinal tap, a lumbar puncture allows doctors to test the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. Our sedation services ensure a pain-free procedure.
  • EMG (electromyography): This test measures how your child’s muscles respond to stimulation. During this test, your child’s neurologist will insert one or more small needles into the muscle and ask him or her to perform certain movements.
  • NCS (nerve conduction study): This type of test measures how fast an electrical impulse travels through a nerve. A specialist will place a flat circular electrode on your child’s skin, using a stimulating device to deliver a small electrical signal through the nerve.
  • Muscle biopsy: A muscle biopsy requires taking a tissue sample for laboratory analysis under the microscope. Specialists use either a small needle or incision, aiming for the least invasive procedure possible to minimize discomfort.

Throughout the diagnosis and testing process, a child life specialist will be by your child’s side to help explain procedures and provide distraction. Our sedation services team is also available to make your child as comfortable as possible during testing. Learn more about  diagnosis and testing.

Comprehensive Neuromuscular Treatment and Support at Mary Bridge

Pediatric neurology specialists at Mary Bridge provide tailored treatment plans to manage symptoms and delay worsening of neuromuscular disorders. We provide:

  • Medication management: Our team will work to pinpoint the best medications to treat your child’s symptoms.
  • Pediatric rehabilitation: Our  Rehabilitation Medicine program provides tailored guidance and therapy to help your child enjoy more independence in daily activities. Physical therapists and occupational therapists at our  Children’s Therapy Unit (CTU) work one-on-one with your child to improve muscle function.
  • Equipment specialist: CTU equipment specialists make sure your child has equipment such as braces, walkers, wheelchairs and breathing or communication devices.
  • Personal health partners (PHPs): We provide PHP teams that include a nurse and a social worker to help streamline the treatment process for you. Our PHPs answer questions, coordinate care and help point you to extra resources to support your child. We can also provide referrals for transitioning to adult care when needed.
  • Complex care team: This interdisciplinary team includes a physician, nurse, child life specialist and social worker to coordinate treatment. The complex care team helps recommend and arrange for services such as home care, rehab and equipment specialists.

Learn more about our  support services.

Contact Us

Call us at 253-792-6630 to make an appointment with one of our specialists.