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Interventions for drooling in children with cerebral palsy

Margaret Walshe, Martine Smith, Lindsay Pennington
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012 November 14, 11: CD008624

BACKGROUND: Drooling is a common problem for children with cerebral palsy (CP). This can be distressing for these children as well as for their parents and caregivers. The consequences of drooling include risk of social rejection, damp and soiled clothing, unpleasant odour, irritated chapped skin, mouth infections, dehydration, interference with speech, damage to books, communication aids, computers, and the risk of social isolation (Blasco 1992; Van der Burg 2006). A range of interventions exist that aim to reduce or eliminate drooling. There is a lack of consensus regarding which interventions are most effective for children with CP.

OBJECTIVES: (1) To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of interventions aimed at reducing or eliminating drooling in children with cerebral palsy. (2) To provide the best available evidence to inform clinical practice. (3) To assist with future research planning.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the following databases from inception to December 2010 : Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); Medline via Ovid; EMBASE; CINAHL; ERIC; Psych INFO; Web of Science; Web of Knowledge; AMED; SCOPUS; Dissertation Abstracts.We searched for ongoing clinical trials in the Clinical Trials web site ( and in the Current Controlled Trials web site ( We hand searched a range of relevant journals and conference proceeding abstracts.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted independently by MW, MS and LP and differences resolved through discussion.

MAIN RESULTS: Six studies were eligible for inclusion in the review. Four of these studies were trials using botulinum toxin-A (BoNT-A) and two were trials on the pharmacological interventions, benztropine and glycopyrrolate. No RCTs or CCTs were retrieved on surgery, physical, oro-motor and oro-sensory therapies, behavioural interventions, intra-oral appliances or acupuncture. In the studies eligible for review, there was considerable heterogeneity within and across interventions and a meta-analysis was not possible. A descriptive summary of each study is provided. All studies showed some statistically significant change for treatment groups up to 1 month post intervention. However, there were methodological flaws associated with all six studies.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: It was not possible to reach a conclusion on the effectiveness and safety of either BoNT-A or the pharmaceutical interventions, benztropine and glycopyrrolate. There is insufficient evidence to inform clinical practice on interventions for drooling in children with CP. Directions for future research are provided.

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