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Logo for the Journal of Rehab R&D
Volume 35 Number 3, July 1998
Pages 314 — 326

Measurement of impaired muscle function of the gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis anterior muscles in spastic hemiplegia: A preliminary study

Jules G. Becher, MD; Jaap Harlaar, MSc; Gustaaf J. Lankhorst, MD, PhD; Tanneke W. Vogelaar, PT

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract —  Based on the results of several electrodiagnostic and biomechanical studies, the following classification of muscle dysfunction in spastic hemiplegia is proposed: changes in muscle activation (excess symptoms, e.g., spasticity, and deficit symptoms e.g., paresis); changes in muscle stiffness; and changes in muscle length. The clinical significance of this classification is that different types of muscle dysfunction might require specific treatment.
The authors have developed techniques to measure quantitatively each type of muscle dysfunction: free frequency repetitive movement (FFRM) and torque angle diagram (TAD). Surface EMGs of tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, and soleus muscle are recorded during active (FFRM) and passive (TAD) ankle movements. EMG data are converted to parameters for abnormal muscle activation (excess and deficit symptoms). Parameters for muscle stiffness and muscle length are derived from the hysteresis curve of the TAD.
This article describes the measurements and the results of a validation study. For the validation study four hypotheses were formulated: 1) in nonimpaired control subjects, parameters expressing abnormal muscle activation are low; 2) in hemiplegic subjects, differences between the affected and the unaffected sides will be found for all types of parameters; 3) after local anaesthesia of the tibial nerve on the hemiplegic side, excess symptoms will decrease, while muscle stiffness remains unchanged; and 4) despite a uniform gait pattern, between-subject differences can be detected with regard to muscle activation, stiffness, and length.
The first hypothesis was tested and confirmed in two controls; the remaining three were tested and confirmed in ten hemiplegic subjects (mean age 47.7 yrs, mean time since onset 10.7 yrs). However, the level of co-contraction of the gastrocnemius muscle was low, probably indicating that the clinical significance of this phenomenon might be limited.
The results support the validity of the proposed classification and measurements.

Key words: hemiplegia, measurement, spasticity.

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