Associations between muscle morphology and spasticity in children with spastic cerebral palsy

Nicky Peeters, Britta Hanssen, Lynn Bar-On, Friedl De Groote, Nathalie De Beukelaer, Marjan Coremans, Christine Van den Broeck, Bernard Dan, Anja Van Campenhout, Kaat Desloovere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Due to the heterogeneous clinical presentation of spastic cerebral palsy (SCP), which makes spasticity treatment challenging, more insight into the complex interaction between spasticity and altered muscle morphology is warranted. Aims: We studied associations between spasticity and muscle morphology and compared muscle morphology between commonly observed spasticity patterns (i.e. different muscle activation patterns during passive stretches). Methods: Spasticity and muscle morphology of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) and semitendinosus (ST) were defined in 74 children with SCP (median age 8 years 2 months, GMFCS I/II/III: 31/25/18, bilateral/unilateral: 46/27). Using an instrumented assessment, spasticity was quantified as the difference in muscle activation recorded during passive stretches at low and high velocities and was classified in mixed length-/velocity-dependent or pure velocity-dependent activation patterns. Three-dimensional freehand ultrasound was used to assess muscle morphology (volume and length) and echogenicity intensity (as a proxy for muscle quality). Spearman correlations and Mann-Whitney-U tests defined associations and group differences, respectively. Results: A moderate negative association (r = −0.624, p < 0.001) was found between spasticity and MG muscle volume, while other significant associations between spasticity and muscle morphology parameters were weak. Smaller normalized muscle volume (MG p = 0.004, ST p=<0.001) and reduced muscle belly length (ST p = 0.015) were found in muscles with mixed length-/velocity-dependent patterns compared to muscles with pure velocity-dependent patterns. Discussion: Higher spasticity levels were associated with smaller MG and ST volumes and shorter MG muscles. These muscle morphology alterations were more pronounced in muscles that activated during low-velocity stretches compared to muscles that only activated during high-velocity stretches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Paediatric Neurology
Early online date10 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Flemish Organization for Scientific Research Foundation, Belgium (FWO-TBM/TAMTA, grant number: T005416N and FWO research project grant number: G0B4619N ) and Internal KU Leuven grant, Belgium ( 3D-MMAP ), grant number C24/18/103 , Internal funding of KU Leuven Biomedical Sciences Group: Fund for Translational Biomedical Research, 2019 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 European Paediatric Neurology Society

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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