Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program Overview

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Children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)  need care from experts in several medical fields. The Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program at Boston Children’s Hospital brings together a comprehensive team of specialists who are experienced in caring for children with SMA

We hold a dedicated SMA clinic once a month so that your child can receive all of his or her SMA-related care in a single visit. This multi-disciplinary approach means that our various specialists work closely with each other and with your family so that your child’s care is well coordinated.

Physicians and researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital make clinical innovation and research on SMA a priority. We work every day to improve the care we provide to our patients and their families.

About Spinal muscular atrophy

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic condition in which the muscles throughout the body are weakened because the cells in the spinal cord and motor nerves do not work properly. Approximately 10-16 people out of every 100,000 children are born with this condition.

The severity of this condition varies greatly between individuals, so the diagnosis of SMA is broken up into three main groups. These are referred to as SMA type I, SMA type II, and SMA type III. The type of SMA a child has is determined by the highest motor function the child achieves.

While these three types are all considered to be part of the same  disease with one genetic cause, there is great variability in the severity of the condition and the challenges an individual with SMA faces.

Our expertise

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Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program Boston Childrens HospitalOur Spinal Muscular Atrophy Program at Boston Children’s Hospital is devoted to providing comprehensive care for children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The program brings together specialists from a variety of fields including:

  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Respiratory/Pulmonary
  • Nutrition
  • Gastroenterology
  • Anesthesia
  • Surgery (non-orthopedic)
  • Social Work


A dedicated SMA clinic

Our core team of physicians, specialists and therapists sees patients together once a month. When you come for an appointment during this clinic, your child will be seen by three teams of specialists:

            1) Neurology, Orthopedics and Physical Therapy

            2) Nutrition

            3) Respiratory/Pulmonary care

The clinic allows you to meet with all of your child’s SMA-related providers during a single visit.   It also gives us the opportunity to evaluate your child’s health as a whole, and to talk with your family so that we can make the best decisions moving forward as a united front.

Our SMA clinic time also gives you a chance to meet other families affected by SMA, if you wish, and to learn about research opportunities.

Specialists who are sensitive to the needs of children with SMA

We have a network of specialists who are experienced in caring for children with SMA. For example, a child with SMA who needs anesthesia for a surgical procedure can have complications because of weakness in his or her respiratory muscles. Because of this, we work with several Boston Children’s Hospital anesthesiologists who understand SMA and have expertise of how to safely provide anesthesia for our patients. See the Meet our team tab for a list of the specialists we collaborate with.

For families whose children are facing an especially difficult prognosis, we put them in touch with the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Boston Children’s. This group can provide comfort for you and your child and support as you make choices about treatment.

Our diagnostic services

We use a number of different tests to help us accurately diagnose your child and evaluate his or her condition. Our program takes advantage of several superb clinical and laboratory resources at Boston Children’s:

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) studies are performed to record the activity of muscles and motor nerves. Children’s has its own EMG laboratory, which is staffed by the neurologists in our program.

Genetic testingis done right here in the Boston Children’s Genetics Diagnostic Laboratory.

Our SMA Program at Boston Children’s is supported by the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation.

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  • 617-355-8235
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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