Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a neuromuscular disease characterized by degeneration of motor neurons, resulting in progressive muscular atrophy (wasting away) and weakness. The clinical spectrum of SMA ranges from early infant death to normal adult life with only mild weakness. These patients often require comprehensive medical care involving multiple disciplines, including pediatric pulmonology, pediatric neurology, pediatric orthopaedic surgery, pediatric critical care, and physical medicine and rehabilitation; and physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, and clinical nutrition.
In all of its forms, the primary feature of SMA is muscle weakness, accompanied by atrophy of muscle. This is the result of denervation, or loss of the signal to contract, that is transmitted from the spinal cord. This is normally transmitted from motor neurons in the spinal cord to muscle via the motor neuron’s axon, but either the motor neuron with its axon, or the axon itself, is lost in all forms of SMA.