Objective: This investigation developed an objective measure to quantify the degree of spasticity. Design: Specifications included a single variable that integrated key elements characterizing spasticity: velocity, range of motion, and resistance to passive motion. A dynamometer at a children's hospital quantified the passive resistance of the hamstrings to knee extension for a range of motion at 4 different speeds for the prospective descriptive investigation. Patients: A convenience sample of six children with able bodies and 17 children with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy volunteered. Data Processing: Torque-angle data were processed to calculate the work done by the machine on the children for each speed and then determine the slope of the work-velocity curves. This slope was considered to be the measure of spasticity and it was hypothesized that children with cerebral palsy would have a greater slope than children with able bodies. An independent t test determined whether a significant difference existed between groups (p < .05). Results: Torque-angle data for children with able bodies indicated little change in passive resistance as a function of speed. Similar data for children with cerebral palsy indicated larger resistive torques with increasing speed. Slope from the work-velocity data was close to zero for children with able bodies 1.003 J/(°/sec)], while the corresponding slope for children with cerebral palsy was approximately 10 times greater [.031 J/(°/sec)] and significantly different (p < .05). Conclusion: The slope of the work-velocity data integrates three major components characterizing spasticity, it is a single number that can easily be evaluated and interpreted in a clinical setting, and it utilizes a machine that is available at many centers.
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