Spasticity measurement in stroke: a pilot study.
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The ability to objectively measure spasticity, related to cerebral stroke, is important in the rehabilitation therapies since many therapeutic modalities have been developed over the years to reduce spasticity. The unproven clinical expectation is that function would be improved were spasticity to be reduced. Unfortunately, the ability to measure spasticity to conduct efficacy studies of spasticity-reducing therapies is not possible. This relates to the multi-variable nature of the spastic syndrome with the result that no clinical measurement technique has been proven to be sensitive, valid and reliable. Therefore, it is important to develop a research-oriented spasticity measurement system to meet this need. We describe the current development of such a system. Details of our pilot study of a reflex excitability technique, designed to measure certain components of cerebral spasticity, are presented. The technique combined biomechanical and electrophysiological measures to investigate a homogenous stroke sample (n = 6); it incorporated the H-reflex in soleus, during passive ankle movements, as a measure of faulty neural inhibition. This component significantly (p < .05) differentiated the stroke sample from a matched, healthy control group (n = 6). Evocation of a cutaneous reflex in soleus was a condition that was problematic and it had to be dropped from the protocol. Joint stiffness, which is thought to affect measures of spasticity during passive movement, did not contaminate the measures. Further research in this direction is required to delineate and measure other neural components of spasticity while taking into account related non-neural variables. The final objective in this line of research is to develop a valid, reliable and sensitive spasticity measurement system that could be used to judge the efficacy of physical neurorehabilitation treatments currently employed to reduce spasticity following stroke.
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