Posts Tagged Muscle spasticity

[ARTICLE] Post-stroke Spasticity: A Review of Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatments – Full Text


Spasticity is a common condition in stroke survivors, and may be associated with pain and joint contracture, leading to poor quality of life and increased caregiver burden. Although the underlying mechanisms are not well-understood, it may be due to disruption of the balance of supra-spinal inhibitory and excitatory sensory inputs directed to the spinal cord, leading to a state of disinhibition of the stretch reflex. The treatment options include physical therapy, modality and pharmacological treatments, neurolysis with phenol and botulinum toxin, and surgical treatment. A successful treatment of spasticity depends on a clear comprehension of the underlying pathophysiology, natural history, and impact on patient’s performances. This review focuses on the epidemiology, presumed mechanism, clinical manifestation, and recent evidences of management.


  • stroke,
  • muscle spasticity,
  • mechanism,
  • symptom management

1. Introduction

Stroke is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in adults in most countries.12 ;  3 Spasticity is a common, but not an inevitable condition, in patients with stroke. Spasticity following stroke is often associated with pain, soft tissue stiffness, and joint contracture, and may lead to abnormal limb posture, decreased quality of life, increased treatment cost, and increased caregiver burden.4 Early detection and management of post-stroke spasticity may not only reduce these complications, but may also improve function and increase independency in patients with spasticity.

Spasticity was first described by Lance5 in 1980 as a motor disorder characterized by a velocity-dependent increase in tonic stretch reflexes (muscle tone), with exaggerated tendon jerks, resulting from hyper-excitability of the neurons involved in stretch reflex, as a component of the upper motor neuron syndrome. This definition is useful in clinical practice, because the guideline “velocity-dependent increase in tonic stretch reflexes,” can distinguish spasticity from other similar movement disorders such as hypertonia, rigidity, and hyperreflexia. However, this definition ignores the important aspect of sensory input in the experience of spasticity. Some studies have found that abnormal processing of sensory inputs from muscle spindles leads to excessive reflex activation of alpha-motoneurons, and increases spasticity. The new definition from the Support Program for Assembly of a Database for Spasticity Measurement (SPASM) project defines spasticity as “disordered sensory-motor control, resulting from an upper motor neuron lesion, presenting as intermittent or sustained involuntary activation of muscles”.6This definition takes into account the contribution of viscoelastic properties of soft tissue to joint stiffness, and the roles of proprioceptive and cutaneous sensory pathways.[…]

Continue —>  Post-stroke Spasticity: A Review of Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatments


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[Abstract] Transcranial and spinal cord magnetic stimulation in treatment of spasticity: a literature review and meta-analysis

INTRODUCTION: Spasticity is associated with various diseases of the nervous system. Current treatments such as drug therapy, botulinum toxin injections, kinesitherapy, and physiotherapy are not sufficiently effective in a large number of patients. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be considered as an alternative method of treatment. The purpose of this article was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of all available publications assessing the efficacy of repetitive TMS in treatment of spasticity.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: Search for articles was conducted in databases PubMed, Willey, and Google. Keywords included “TMS”, “spasticity”, “TMS and spasticity”, “non-invasive brain stimulation”, and “non-invasive spinal cord stimulation”. The difference in scores according to the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS) for one joint before and after treatment was taken as the effect size.
EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: We found 26 articles that examined the TMS efficacy in treatment of spasticity. Meta-analysis included 6 trials comprising 149 patients who underwent real stimulation or simulation. No statistically significant difference in the effect of real and simulated stimulation was found in stroke patients. In patients with spinal cord injury and spasticity, the mean effect size value and the 95% confidence interval were -0.80 and (-1.12, -0.49), respectively, in a group of real stimulation; in the case of simulated stimulation, these parameters were 0.15 and (-0.30, -0.00), respectively. Statistically significant differences between groups of real stimulation and simulation were demonstrated for using high-frequency repetitive TMS or iTBS mode for the M1 area of the spastic leg (P=0.0002).
CONCLUSIONS: According to the meta-analysis, the statistically significant effect of TMS in the form of reduced spasticity was demonstrated only for the developed due to lesions at the brain stem and spinal cord level. To clarify the amount of the antispasmodic effect of repetitive TMS at other lesion levels, in particular in patients with hemispheric stroke, further research is required.

via Transcranial and spinal cord magnetic stimulation in treatment of spasticity: a literature review and meta-analysis – European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2018 February;54(1):75-84 – Minerva Medica – Journals

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[Abstract] Evaluation of a self-administered transcutaneous electrical stimulation concept for the treatment of spasticity: a randomised placebo-controlled trial

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BACKGROUND: Spasticity is a common consequence of injury to the central nervous system negatively affecting patient’s everyday activities. Treatment mainly consists of training and different drugs, often with side effects. There is a need for treatment options that can be performed by the patient in their home environment.

AIM: The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of an assistive technology (AT), Mollii®, a garment with integrated electrodes for multifocal transcutaneous electrical stimulation intended for self-treatment of spasticity, in study participants with spasticity due to stroke or CP.

DESIGN: The study was a randomised, controlled, double-blind study with a cross-over design.

SETTING: Participants were recruited from two rehabilitation clinics. Treatments were performed in participants’ homes and all follow-ups were performed in the two rehabilitation clinics.

POPULATION: Thirty-one participants were included in the study and 27 completed the study. Four participants discontinued the study. Two declined participation before baseline and two withdrew due to problems handling the garment.

METHODS: Participants used the AT with and without electrical stimulation (active/non-active period) for six weeks each, followed by six weeks without treatment. Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS), change in mobility, arm-hand ability, spasticity and pain were measured at baseline and after six, 12 and 18 weeks.

RESULTS: Fifteen of the 27 participants fulfilled the treatment protocol in terms of recommended use. Deviations were frequent. No statistically significant differences in outcome were found between the active and the non-active treatment periods. During the active period, an improvement was seen in the 10-metre comfortable gait test, time and steps. An improvement was seen in both the active and non-active periods for the GAS.

CONCLUSIONS: Compliance was low, partly due to deviations related to the garment, complicating the interpretation of the results. Further research should focus on identifying the target population and concomitant rehabilitation strategies.

CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: The evaluated concept of multifocal transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TES) represents an interesting addition to the existing repertoire of treatments to alleviate muscle spasticity. The evaluated concept allows TES to be self-administered by the patient in the home environment. A more elaborate design of training activities directly related to patient´s own rehabilitation goals is recommended and may increase the value of the evaluated concept.

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via Evaluation of a self-administered transcutaneous electrical stimulation concept for the treatment of spasticity: a randomised placebo-controlled trial – European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2017 Oct 25 – Minerva Medica – Journals

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[Abstract] Interventions for managing skeletal muscle spasticity following traumatic brain injury – Cochrane Systematic Review



Skeletal muscle spasticity is a major physical complication resulting from traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can lead to muscle contracture, joint stiffness, reduced range of movement, broken skin and pain. Treatments for spasticity include a range of pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions, often used in combination. Management of spasticity following TBI varies from other clinical populations because of the added complexity of behavioural and cognitive issues associated with TBI.


To assess the effects of interventions for managing skeletal muscle spasticity in people with TBI.

Search methods

In June 2017, we searched key databases including the Cochrane Injuries Group Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase (Ovid) and others, in addition to clinical trials registries and the reference lists of included studies.

Selection criteria

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cross-over RCTs evaluating any intervention for the management of spasticity in TBI. Only studies where at least 50% of participants had a TBI (or for whom separate data for participants with TBI were available) were included. The primary outcomes were spasticity and adverse effects. Secondary outcome measures were classified according to the World Health Organization International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health including body functions (sensory, pain, neuromusculoskeletal and movement-related functions) and activities and participation (general tasks and demands; mobility; self-care; domestic life; major life areas; community, social and civic life).

Data collection and analysis

We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. Data were synthesised narratively; meta-analysis was precluded due to the paucity and heterogeneity of data.

Main results

We included nine studies in this review which involved 134 participants with TBI. Only five studies reported between-group differences, yielding outcome data for 105 participants with TBI. These five studies assessed the effects of a range of pharmacological (baclofen, botulinum toxin A) and non-pharmacological (casting, physiotherapy, splints, tilt table standing and electrical stimulation) interventions, often in combination. The studies which tested the effect of baclofen and tizanidine did not report their results adequately. Where outcome data were available, spasticity and adverse events were reported, in addition to some secondary outcome measures.

Of the five studies with results, three were funded by governments, charities or health services and two were funded by a pharmaceutical or medical technology company. The four studies without useable results were funded by pharmaceutical or medical technology companies.

It was difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of these interventions due to poor reporting, small study size and the fact that participants with TBI were usually only a proportion of the overall total. Meta-analysis was not feasible due to the paucity of data and heterogeneity of interventions and comparator groups. Some studies concluded that the intervention they tested had beneficial effects on spasticity, and others found no difference between certain treatments. The most common adverse event was minor skin damage in people who received casting. We believe it would be misleading to provide any further description of study results given the quality of the evidence was very low for all outcomes.

Authors’ conclusions

The very low quality and limited amount of evidence about the management of spasticity in people with TBI means that we are uncertain about the effectiveness or harms of these interventions. Well-designed and adequately powered studies using functional outcome measures to test the interventions used in clinical practice are needed.

Plain language summary

Treatments for spasticity (overactive muscle contractions) following brain injury

Review question

We reviewed the evidence about the effect of treatments (drug and non-drug) for spasticity following a brain injury caused by a blow to the head (traumatic brain injury (TBI)).


Many people with TBI experience muscle spasticity, when their muscles contract or tighten involuntarily. This can impact on a person’s ability to carry out daily activities causing pain, stiffness and broken skin. There are many treatments used to manage spasticity, including medicines, casting, splints and stretches. Often, these treatments are used in combination.

Study characteristics

We included nine studies in this review which involved 134 participants with TBI. Only five studies, including 105 people provided usable results. These studies tested the effects of a range of treatments, including medicines (baclofen or botulinum toxin A), casting, physiotherapy, splints, a table that moves people from the lying position to standing and electrical stimulation (where electrical impulses are delivered to the muscles). Studies inadequately reporting results had tested the effect of medicines (baclofen or tizanidine).

Study funding sources

Of the five studies with results, three were funded by governments, charities or health services and two were funded by a drug manufacturer and medical technology company. The other four studies without useable results were funded by drug manufacturer or medical technology companies.

Key results

This evidence is current to June 2017.

Interpreting the results of the studies was difficult because of a lack of information and concerns about the quality of the evidence. For spasticity, some studies concluded that the treatment they tested made an improvement, and others found no difference between treatments. The most common side effect was minor skin damage in people who received casting. We believe it would be misleading to provide any further description of study results given the quality of the evidence was very low for all measurements.

Quality of the evidence

The quality of this evidence was very low; we only had five studies with results and none of the studies were large or comparable with one another. We also had concerns about how they were conducted or analysed. Because of this, we cannot draw any firm conclusions about the benefits and harms of different treatments for spasticity in people with TBI.

via Interventions for managing skeletal muscle spasticity following traumatic brain injury – Synnot – 2017 – The Cochrane Library – Wiley Online Library

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[Abstract] OnabotulinumtoxinA for the Treatment of Post-Stroke Distal Lower-Limb Spasticity: A Randomized Trial



Post-stroke distal lower limb spasticity impairs mobility, limiting activities of daily living, requiring additional caregiver time.


To evaluate the efficacy, safety, and sustained benefit of onabotulinumtoxinA in adults with post-stroke lower limb spasticity (PSLLS).


A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, phase 3, placebo-controlled trial.


60 study centers across North America, Europe, Russia the United Kingdom, and South Korea.


Adult patients (18 to 65 years of age) with PSLLS (Modified Ashworth Scale [MAS] ≥3) of the ankle plantar flexors and the most recent stroke ≥3 months prior to study enrollment. .


During the open-label phase, patients received ≤3 onabotulinumtoxinA treatments (≤400 U) or placebo at approximately 12-week intervals. Treatments were into the ankle plantar flexors (onabotulinumtoxinA 300 U into ankle plantar flexors; ≤100 U, optional lower limb muscles).

Main Outcome Measurements

The double-blind primary endpoint was MAS change from baseline (average score at weeks 4 and 6). Secondary measures included physician-assessed Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGI), MAS change from baseline in optional muscles, Goal Attainment Scale (GAS), and pain scale.


Of 468 patients enrolled, 450 (96%) completed the double-blind phase and 413 (88%) completed the study. Small improvements in MAS observed with onabotulinumtoxinA during the double-blind phase (onabotulinumtoxinA, –0.8; placebo, –0.6, P=0.01) were further enhanced with additional treatments through week 6 of the third open-label treatment cycle (onabotulinumtoxinA/onabotulinumtoxinA, –1.2; placebo/onabotulinumtoxinA, –1.4). Small improvements in CGI observed during the double-blind phase (onabotulinumtoxinA, 0.9; placebo, 0.7, P=0.01) were also further enhanced through week 6 of the third open-label treatment cycle (onabotulinumtoxinA/onabotulinumtoxinA, 1.6; placebo/onabotulinumtoxinA, 1.6). Physician- and patient-assessed GAS scores improved with each subsequent treatment. No new safety signals emerged.


OnabotulinumtoxinA significantly improved ankle MAS, CGI, and GAS scores compared with placebo; improvements were consistent and increased with repeated treatments of onabotulinumtoxinA over 1 year in patients with PSLLS.


via OnabotulinumtoxinA for the Treatment of Post-Stroke Distal Lower-Limb Spasticity: A Randomized Trial – PM&R

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[Abstract+References] Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improves walking capacity and reduces spasticity in stroke survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis

To evaluate (1) the effectiveness of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) at improving lower extremity motor recovery in stroke survivors and (2) the optimal stimulation parameters for TENS.

A systematic search was conducted for studies published up to October 2017 using eight electronic databases (CINAHL,, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PEDro, PubMed and Web of Science). Randomized controlled trials that evaluated the effectiveness of the application of TENS at improving lower extremity motor recovery in stroke survivors were assessed for inclusion. Outcomes of interest included plantar flexor spasticity, muscle strength, walking capacity and balance.

In all, 11 studies met the inclusion criteria which involved 439 stroke survivors. The meta-analysis showed that TENS improved walking capacity, as measured by either gait speed or the Timed Up and Go Test (Hedges’ g = 0.392; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.178 to 0.606) compared to the placebo or no-treatment control groups. TENS also reduced paretic plantar flexor spasticity, as measured using the Modified Ashworth Scale and Composite Spasticity Scale (Hedges’ g = –0.884; 95% CI = –1.140 to −0.625). The effect of TENS on walking capacity in studies involving 60 minutes per sessions was significant (Hedges’ g = 0.468; 95% CI = 0.201–0.734) but not in study with shorter sessions (20 or 30 minutes) (Hedges’ g = 0.254; 95% CI = –0.106–0.614).

The results support the use of repeated applications of TENS as an adjunct therapy for improving walking capacity and reducing spasticity in stroke survivors.

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via Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improves walking capacity and reduces spasticity in stroke survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysisClinical Rehabilitation – Patrick WH Kwong, Gabriel YF Ng, Raymond CK Chung, Shamay SM Ng, 2017

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Objective: The main aim of this study was to determine
the utilization patterns and effectiveness of onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox®) for treatment of spasticity in clinical practice.

Design: An international, multicentre, prospective, observational study at selected sites in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Patients: Adult patients with newly diagnosed or established focal spasticity, including those who had previously received treatment with onabotulinumtoxinA.

Methods: Patients were treated with onabotulinumtoxinA, approximately every 12 weeks, according to their physician’s usual clinical practice over a period of up to 96 weeks, with a final follow-up interview at 108 weeks. Patient, physician and caregiver data were collected.

Results: Baseline characteristics are reported. Of the 745 patients enrolled by 75 healthcare providers from 54 sites, 474 patients had previously received onabotulinumtoxinA treatment for spasticity. Lower limb spasticity was more common than upper limb spasticity, with stroke the most common underlying aetiology. The Short-Form 12 (SF-12) health survey scores showed that patients’ spasticity had a greater perceived impact on physical rather than mental aspects.

Conclusion: The data collected in this study will guide the development of administration strategies to optimize the effectiveness of onabotulinumtoxinA in the management of spasticity of various underlying

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[Abstract] Efficacy and safety of botulinum toxin type A for upper limb spasticity after stroke or traumatic brain injury: a systematic review with meta-analysis.



Muscle spasticity is a positive symptom after stroke and traumatic brain injury. Botulinum toxin type A (BoNT-A) injection is widely used for treating post stroke and traumatic brain injury spasticity. This study aimed to evaluate efficacy and safety of BoNT-A for upper limb spasticity after stroke and traumatic brain injury and investigate reliability and conclusiveness of available evidence for BoNT-A intervention.


We searched electronic databases from inception to September 10 of 2016. Randomized controlled trials comparing the effectiveness between BoNT-A and placebo in stroke or traumatic brain injury adults with upper limb spasticity were included. Reliability and conclusiveness of the available evidence were examined with trial sequential analysis.


From 489 citations identified, 22 studies were included, reporting results for 1804 participants. A statistically significant decrease of muscle tone was observed at each time point after BoNT-A injection compared to placebo (SMD at week 4=-0.98, 95% CI: -1.28 to -0.68; I2=66%, P=0.004; SMD at week 6=-0.85, 95% CI: -1.11 to -0.59, I2=1.2%, P=0.409; SMD at week 8=-0.87, 95% CI: -1.15 to -0.6, I2=0%, P=0.713; SMD at week 12=-0.67, 95% CI: -0.88 to -0.46, I2=0%, P=0.896; and SMD over week 12=-0.73, 95% CI: -1.21 to -0.24, I2=63.5%, P=0.065).Trial sequential analysis showed that as of year 2004 sufficient evidence had been accrued to show significant benefit of BoNT-A four weeks after injection over placebo control. BoNT-A treatment also significantly reduced Disability Assessment Scale Score than placebo at 4, 6 and 12-week follow-up period (WMD=-0.33, 95% CI: -0.63 to -0.03, I2=60%, P=0.114; WMD=-0.54, 95% CI: -0.74 to -0.33, I2= 0%, P=0.596 and WMD=-0.3, 95% CI: -0.45 to -0.14, I2=0%, P=0.426 respectively), and significantly increased patients’ global assessment score at week 4 and 6 after injection (SMD=0.56, 95% CI: 0.28 to 0.83; I2=0%, P=0.681 and SMD=1.11, 95% CI: 0.4 to 1.77; I2=72.8%, P=0.025 respectively). No statistical difference was observed in the frequency of adverse events between BoNT-A and placebo group (RR=1.36, 95% CI [0.82, 2.27]; I2=0%, P=0.619).


As compared with placebo, BoNT-A injections have beneficial effects with improved muscle tone and well-tolerated treatment for patients with upper limb spasticity post stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Source: Efficacy and safety of botulinum toxin type A for upper limb spasticity after stroke or traumatic brain injury: a systematic review with meta-analy… – PubMed – NCBI

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[ARTICLE] Rehabilitation plus OnabotulinumtoxinA Improves Motor Function over OnabotulinumtoxinA Alone in Post-Stroke Upper Limb Spasticity: A Single-Blind, Randomized Trial – Full Text HTML


Background: OnabotulinumtoxinA (BoNT-A) can temporarily decrease spasticity following stroke, but whether there is an associated improvement in upper limb function is less clear. This study measured the benefit of adding weekly rehabilitation to a background of BoNT-A treatments for chronic upper limb spasticity following stroke. Methods: This was a multi-center clinical trial. Thirty-one patients with post-stroke upper limb spasticity were treated with BoNT-A. They were then randomly assigned to 24 weeks of weekly upper limb rehabilitation or no rehabilitation. They were injected up to two times, and followed for 24 weeks. The primary outcome was change in the Fugl–Meyer upper extremity score, which measures motor function, sensation, range of motion, coordination, and speed. Results: The ‘rehab’ group significantly improved on the Fugl–Meyer upper extremity score (Visit 1 = 60, Visit 5 = 67) while the ‘no rehab’ group did not improve (Visit 1 = 59, Visit 5 = 59; p = 0.006). This improvement was largely driven by the upper extremity “movement” subscale, which showed that the ‘rehab’ group was improving (Visit 1 = 33, Visit 5 = 37) while the ‘no rehab’ group remained virtually unchanged (Visit 1 = 34, Visit 5 = 33; p = 0.034). Conclusions: Following injection of BoNT-A, adding a program of rehabilitation improved motor recovery compared to an injected group with no rehabilitation.

1. Introduction

While several blinded and open-label studies have demonstrated the ability of botulinum toxin to temporarily decrease spasticity following stroke, as measured by standard assessments such as the Modified Ashworth Scale [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8], the ability of botulinum toxin to improve upper limb function following stroke is less clear, with some studies [1,3,4,5,6,7,8], though not all [2,7], reporting functional improvement. Two recent meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials demonstrated that botulinum toxin treatment resulted in a moderate improvement in upper limb function [9,10]. Despite large clinical trials [2,3,11] and FDA approval, the exact timing, use of adjunct rehabilitation, and continuation of lifelong botulinum toxin treatment remains unclear [12,13].
A recent Cochrane Review included three randomized clinical trials for post-stroke spasticity involving 91 participants [14]. It aimed to determine the efficacy of multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs following treatment with botulinum toxin, and found some evidence supporting modified constraint-induced movement therapy and dynamic elbow splinting. There have been varied study designs exploring rehabilitation in persons after the injection of botulinum toxin or a placebo [13,15], rehabilitation in persons after the injection of botulinum toxin or no injection [16], or rehabilitation after the injection of botulinum toxin with no control condition [17]. As the use of botulinum toxin expands and is beneficial in reducing spasticity and costs [18], the benefit of adding upper limb rehabilitation continues to be questioned. We designed this multi-center, randomized, single-blind clinical trial to assess improvement in patient sensory and motor outcome following the injection of onabotulinumtoxinA (BoNT-A), comparing the effects of rehabilitation versus no rehabilitation, using the upper extremity portion of the Fugl–Meyer Assessment of Sensorimotor Recovery After Stroke [19] as the primary outcome measure. While patients could not be blinded to their randomization to receive additional rehabilitation versus no rehabilitation, the assessments of all of the outcome measures were performed by evaluators blinded to rehabilitation assignment in this single-blind design.

2. Results

Thirty-one patients with post-stroke upper limb spasticity were enrolled, with 29 completing the study (Figure 1). The strokes occurred an average of 6 years prior to study entry, with a range of 6 months to 16½ years. The upper extremity postures treated included flexed elbow, pronated forearm, flexed wrist, flexed fingers, and clenched fist, and were evenly distributed between the treatment groups (the initial dose of BoNT-A administered was left up to the clinician’s judgment based on the amount of spasticity present, and did not differ between groups). One participant (‘no rehab’, injected at Visits 1 and 3A) left the study after Visit 3A due to a deterioration in general health and an inability to travel to study visits. A second participant (‘no rehab’, injected at Visits 1 and 3A) left the study after Visit 4 due to a fall with a broken affected wrist. All of the participants were injected at Visit 1, 19 were injected at Visit 3 (8 ‘rehab’; 11 ‘no rehab’), and 7 were injected at Visit 3A (3 ‘rehab’; 4 ‘no rehab’). Those participants who did not receive injections at Visits 3 or 3A had a level of spasticity that either did not meet the injection criteria due to an Ashworth score of <2 in the wrist (and/or fingers) or one that was felt to be too low to warrant injection. Table 1 provides a description of each group with regard to age, sex, race, whether the stroke occurred in the dominant hemisphere, and clinical measures. At baseline, the treatment groups did not differ on any demographic or clinical variables. […]

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[ARTICLE] Assessment and treatment of spastic equinovarus foot after stroke: Guidance from the Mont-Godinne interdisciplinary group – Full Text

Objective: To present interdisciplinary practical guidance for the assessment and treatment of spastic equinovarus foot after stroke.

Results: Clinical examination and diagnostic nerve block with anaesthetics determine the relative role of the factors leading to spastic equinovarus foot after stroke: calf spasticity, triceps surae – Achilles tendon complex shortening and dorsiflexor muscles weakness and/or imbalance. Diagnostic nerve block is a mandatory step in determining the cause(s) of, and the most appropriate treatment(s) for, spastic equinovarus foot. Based on interdisciplinary discussion, and according to a patient-oriented goal approach, a medical and/or surgical treatment plan is proposed in association with a rehabilitation programme. Spasticity is treated with botulinum toxin or phenol–alcohol chemodenervation and neurotomy, shortening is treated by stretching and muscle-tendon lengthening, and weakness is treated by ankle-foot orthosis, functional electrical stimulation and tendon transfer. These treatments are frequently combined.

Conclusion: Based on 20 years of interdisciplinary expertise of management of the spastic foot, guidance was established to clarify a complex problem in order to help clinicians treat spastic equinovarus foot. This work should be the first step in a more global international consensus.


Stroke is the third most common cause of death and the primary cause of severe disability in industrialized countries. Following stroke, approximately 80% of patients regain walking function with decreased gait velocity and asymmetrical gait pattern (1). Spastic equinovarus foot (SEVF) is one of the most common disabling deformities observed among hemiplegic patients. SEVF is frequently associated with other kinematic gait abnormalities, such as stiff knee gait, genu recurvatum, and painful claw toes. SEVF deformity forces the patient to increase their hip and knee flexion in the swing phase. If they are unable to do this (e.g. if they have associated stiff knee gait), the patient will present a hip circumbduction in the swing phase. Correction of such equinus may therefore improve distal as well as proximal gait disturbances.

SEVF deformity has 4 main causes (2, 3). The first is spasticity of the calf muscles (soleus, gastrocnemius, tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum and flexor hallucis longus muscles), responsible for SEVF in the stance phase of gait and for painful toe curling with callosities on the pulp and dorsum of the toes. The peroneus longus and brevis muscles may also be spastic (often with clonus), but such spasticity is useful to limit the varus and stabilize the ankle. Secondly, the spastic muscles have a tendency to remain in a shortened position for prolonged periods, which, in turn, results in soft-tissue changes and contractures, leading to a fixed deformity (4). Thirdly, weakness of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles (tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum and hallucis muscles) as well as the peroneus longus and brevis muscles is responsible for drop-foot in the swing phase of gait. Such weakness is often emphasized by triceps spastic co-contraction and/or contracture. The weakness also affects the triceps surae muscles, leading to a lack of propulsion at the end of the stance phase of gait. Lastly, an imbalance between the tibialis anterior and the peroneus muscles leads to varus of the hind-foot in the swing phase, as peroneus activation must compensate for physiological varus positioning related to contraction of the tibialis anterior. In such a case, the foot will be placed in an unstable varus position during the swing phase and at the beginning of the stance phase.

The respective role of the main causes of SEVF (spasticity, shortening, weakness, and imbalance) varies from patient to patient, and therapeutic decisions are therefore challenging. Indeed, as emphasized by Fuller, the causes of SEVF are varied and complex, due to a variety of deforming forces, and thus a single procedure does not exist to correct all deformities (3). Hence there is a need for guidance and guidelines.

Treatments for SEVF described in the literature are multimodal and include rehabilitation, orthosis, botulinum toxin (BoNT-A) injections, alcohol and phenol nerve blocks, functional neurosurgery (selective neurotomy and intrathecal baclofen therapy) and orthopaedic surgery (tendon transfer, tendon lengthening and bone surgery) (5). SEVF rehabilitation programmes include strengthening of the tibialis anterior and peroneus muscles, electrical stimulation, stretching of the triceps surae to reduce spasticity and prevent contracture, and gait and balance training. Modern therapeutic approaches, such as task-oriented strategy and treadmill with bodyweight support, are promoted. Several publications support the effectiveness of these treatments in SEVF (6–8). However, only 3 studies have compared different treatment options (9–11). A systematic review of surgical correction in adult patients with stroke emphasized the need to compare treatments in order to generate evidence on which to base algorithms (8). In fact, no practical guidelines are available for use in daily practice. Evidence regarding choice of treatment is poor, thus therapeutic decision-making is based on professional personal preferences and beliefs rather than on scientific evidence. An interdisciplinary approach with a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) specialist and rehabilitation team, neurosurgeon, and orthopaedic surgeon is therefore mandatory in order to optimize treatments.

The aim of this paper is to present and discuss the Mont-Godinne interdisciplinary guidance (Fig. 1), based on the existing literature and on 20 years of experience of an interdisciplinary medical and surgical approach to SEVF.

Continue —> Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine – Assessment and treatment of spastic equinovarus foot after stroke: Guidance from the Mont-Godinne interdisciplinary group – HTML

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