first publication: reference 24 has been added and the ethical commission number has been corrected.] AIM This cross-sectional investigation evaluated whether recurrent botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT-A) interventions to the medial gastrocnemius have an influence on muscle morphology, beyond Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) level.METHOD A cohort of typically developing children (n=67; 43 males, 24 females; median age 9y 11mo [range 7y 10mo-11y 6mo]), a cohort of children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) naive to BoNT-A interventions (No-BoNT-A; n=19; 10 males, nine females; median age 9y 3mo [range 8y 5mo-10y 10mo]) and a cohort of children with spastic CP with a minimum of three recurrent BoNT-A interventions to the medial gastrocnemius (BoNT-A; n=19; 13 males, six females; median age 9y 8mo [range 7y 3mo-10y 7mo]) were recruited. Three-dimensional freehand ultrasound was used to estimate medial gastrocnemius volume normalized to body mass and echo-intensity.
Stretching is often used to increase or maintain the joint range of motion (ROM) in children with cerebral palsy (CP), but the effectiveness of these interventions is limited. Therefore, our aim was to determine the acute changes in muscle-tendon lengthening properties that contribute to increased ROM after a bout of stretching in children with CP. Eleven children with spastic CP [age 12.1 (3 SD) years, 5/6 hemiplegia/diplegia, 7/4 gross motor function classification system level I/II] participated. Each child received three sets of five × 20 s passive, manual static dorsiflexion stretches separated by 30 s rest, with 60 s rest between sets. Before and immediately after stretching, ultrasound was used to measure medial gastrocnemius fascicle lengthening continuously over the full ROM and an individual common ROM pre- to post-stretching. Simultaneously, three-dimensional motion of two marker clusters on the shank and the foot was captured to calculate ankle angle, and ankle joint torque was calculated from manually applied torques and forces on a six degrees-of-freedom load cell. After stretching, the ROM was increased [by 9.9 (12.0) deg, P = 0.005]. Over a ROM common to both pre- and post-measurements, there were no changes in fascicle lengthening or torque. The maximal ankle joint torque tolerated by the participants increased [by 2.9 (2.4) N m, P = 0.003], and at this highest passive torque the maximal fascicle length was 2.8 (2.4) mm greater (P = 0.009) when compared with before stretching. These results indicate that the stiffness of the muscle fascicles in children with CP remains unaltered by an acute bout of stretching.
Aim: Stretching is often used to increase/maintain muscle length and improve joint range of motion (ROM) in children with cerebral palsy (CP). However, outcomes at the muscle (remodeling) and resulting function appear to be highly variable and often unsatisfactory. During passive joint rotation, the Achilles tendon lengthens more than the in-series medial gastrocnemius muscle in children with CP, which might explain the limited effectiveness of stretching interventions. We aimed to ascertain whether increasing tendon stiffness, by performing resistance training, improves the effectiveness of passive stretching, indicated by an increase in medial gastrocnemius fascicle length. Methods: Sixteen children with CP (Age median [IQR]: 9.6 [8.6, 10.5]) completed the study. Children were randomly assigned to a combined intervention of stretching and strengthening of the calf muscles ( n = 9) or a control (stretching-only) group ( n = 7). Medial gastrocnemius fascicle length at a resting ankle angle, lengthening during passive joint rotations, and tendon stiffness were assessed by combining dynamometry and ultrasound imaging. The study was registered on clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02766491). Results: Resting fascicle length and tendon stiffness increased more in the intervention group compared to the control group (median [95% CI] increase fascicle length: 2.2 [1.3, 4.3] mm; stiffness: 13.6 [9.9, 17.7] N/mm) Maximum dorsiflexion angle increased equally in both groups. Conclusion: This study provides proof of principle that a combined resistance and stretching intervention can increase tendon stiffness and muscle fascicle length in children with CP. This demonstrates that remodeling of muscle structure is possible with non-invasive interventions in spastic CP.
The ability of muscles to produce force depends, among others, on their anatomical features and it is altered by ageing-associated weakening. However, a clear characterisation of these features, highly relevant for older individuals, is still lacking. This study hence aimed at characterising muscle volume, length, and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) and their variability, between body sides and between individuals, in a group of post-menopausal women. Lower-limb magnetic resonance images were acquired from eleven participants (69 (7) y. o., 66.9 (7.7) kg, 159 (3) cm). Twenty-three muscles were manually segmented from the images and muscle volume, length and PCSA were calculated from this dataset. Personalised maximal isometric force was then calculated using the latter information. The percentage difference between the muscles of the two lower limbs was up to 89% and 22% for volume and length, respectively, and up to 84% for PCSA, with no recognisable pattern associated with limb dominance. Between-subject coefficients of variation reached 36% and 13% for muscle volume and length, respectively. Generally, muscle parameters were similar to previous literature, but volumes were smaller than those from in-vivo young adults and slightly higher than ex-vivo ones. Maximal isometric force was found to be on average smaller than those obtained from estimates based on linear scaling of ex-vivo-based literature values. In conclusion, this study quantified for the first time anatomical asymmetry of lower-limb muscles in older women, suggesting that symmetry should not be assumed in this population. Furthermore, we showed that a scaling approach, widely used in musculoskeletal modelling, leads to an overestimation of the maximal isometric force for most muscles. This heavily questions the validity of this approach for older populations. As a solution, the unique dataset of muscle segmentation made available with this paper could support the development of alternative population-based scaling approaches, together with that of automatic tools for muscle segmentation.
Children with cerebral palsy (CP) commonly present with reduced ankle range of motion (ROM) attributable, in part, to changes in mechanical properties of the muscle-tendon unit (MTU). Detailed information about how muscle and tendon interact to contribute to joint rotation is currently lacking but might provide essential information to explain the limited effectiveness of stretching interventions in children with CP. The purpose of this study was to quantify which structures contribute to MTU lengthening and thus receive the stretch during passive ankle joint rotation. Fifteen children with CP (age, in mean ± SD, 11.4 ± 3 years) and 16 typically developing (TD) children (age, in mean ± SD, 10.2 ± 3 years) participated. Ultrasound was combined with motion tracking, joint torque and EMG to record fascicle, muscle and tendon lengthening of the medial gastrocnemius during passive ankle joint rotations over the full ROM and a common ROM. In children with CP, relative to MTU lengthening, muscle and fascicles lengthened less (CP, 50.4% of MTU lengthening; TD, 63% of MTU lengthening; P < 0.04) and tendon lengthened more (CP, 49.6% of MTU lengthening; TD, 37% of MTU lengthening; P < 0.01) regardless of the ROM studied. Differences between groups in the amount of lengthening of the underlying structures during a similar amount of joint rotation and MTU displacement indicate possible differences in tissue mechanical properties attributable to CP, which are not evident by assessment at the level of a joint. These factors should be considered when assessing and treating muscle function in children with CP, for example during stretching exercises, because the muscle might not receive much of the applied lengthening stimulus.
When studying muscle and whole-body function in children with cerebral palsy (CP), knowledge about both internal and external moment arms is essential since they determine the mechanical advantage of a muscle over an external force. Here we asked if Achilles tendon moment arm (MA) length is different in children with CP and age-matched typically developing (TD) children, and if MA can be predicted from anthropometric measurements. Sixteen children with CP (age: 10y 7m±3y, 7 hemiplegia, 12 diplegia, GMFCS level: I (11) and II (8)) and twenty TD children (age: 10y 6m±3y) participated in this case-control study. MA was calculated at 20° plantarflexion by differentiating calcaneus displacement with respect to ankle angle. Seven anthropometric variables were measured and related to MA. We found normalized MA to be 15% (∼7mm) smaller in children with CP compared to TD children (p=0.003). MA could be predicted by all anthropometric measurements with tibia length explaining 79% and 72% of variance in children with CP and TD children, respectively. Our findings have important implications for clinical decision making since MA influences the mechanical advantage about the ankle, which contributes to movement function and is manipulated surgically.
Hyper-resistance at the joint is one of the most common symptoms in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Alterations to the structure and mechanical properties of the musculoskeletal system, such as a decreased muscle length and an increased joint stiffness are typically managed conservatively, by means of physiotherapy involving stretching exercises. However, the effectiveness of stretching-based interventions for improving function is poor. This may be due to the behavior of a spastic muscle during stretch, which is poorly understood. The main aim of this paper is to provide a mechanistic explanation as to why the effectiveness of stretching is limited in children with CP and consider clinically relevant means by which this shortcoming can be tackled. To do this, we review the current literature regarding muscle and tendon plasticity in response to stretching in children with CP. First, we discuss how muscle and tendon interact based on their morphology and mechanical properties to provide a certain range of motion at the joint. We then consider the effect of traditional stretching exercises on these muscle and tendon properties. Finally, we examine possible strategies to increase the effectiveness of stretching therapies and we highlight areas of further research that have the potential to improve the outcome of non-invasive interventions in children with cerebral palsy.
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