Hilde Feys, Kaat Desloovere, Els Ortibus, Katrijn Klingels, Lisa Mailleux, Jos Vanrenterghem, Guy Molenaers, Cristina Simon-Martinez, Ellen Jaspers
Upper limb three-dimensional movement analysis (UL-3DMA) offers a reliable and valid tool to evaluate movement patterns in children with unilateral cerebral palsy (uCP). However, it remains unknown to what extent the underlying motor impairments explain deviant movement patterns. Such understanding is key to develop efficient rehabilitation programs. Although UL-3DMA has been shown to be a useful tool to assess movement patterns, it results in a multitude of data, challenging the clinical interpretation and consequently its implementation. UL-3DMA reports are often reduced to summary metrics, such as average or peak values per joint. However, these metrics do not take into account the continuous nature of the data or the interdependency between UL joints, and do not provide phase-specific information of the movement pattern. Moreover, summary metrics may not be sensitive enough to estimate the impact of motor impairments. Recently, Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) was proposed to overcome these problems. We collected UL-3DMA of 60 children with uCP and 60 typically developing children during eight functional tasks and evaluated the impact of spasticity and muscle weakness on UL movement patterns. SPM vector field analysis was used to analyze movement patterns at the level of five joints (wrist, elbow, shoulder, scapula, and trunk). Children with uCP showed deviant movement patterns in all joints during a large percentage of the movement cycle. Spasticity and muscle weakness negatively impacted on UL movement patterns during all tasks, which resulted in increased wrist flexion, elbow pronation and flexion, increased shoulder external rotation, decreased shoulder elevation with a preference for movement in the frontal plane and increased trunk internal rotation. Scapular position was altered during movement initiation, although scapular movements were not affected by muscle weakness or spasticity. In conclusion, we identified pathological movement patterns in children with uCP and additionally mapped the negative impact of spasticity and muscle weakness on these movement patterns, providing useful insights that will contribute to treatment planning. Last, we also identified a subset of the most relevant tasks for studying UL movements in children with uCP, which will facilitate the interpretation of UL-3DMA data and undoubtedly contribute to its clinical implementation.