Arm and hand function in children with unilateral cerebral palsy: A one-year follow-up study

Katrijn Klingels, Hilde Feys, Liesbet De Wit, Ellen Jaspers, Ann Van de Winckel, Geert Verbeke, Paul De Cock, Guy Molenaers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: In children with unilateral cerebral palsy (CP), development of arm and hand function is often compromised by the underlying motor and sensory impairments. However, knowledge about the evolution of arm and hand function in this population is limited. Aim: The aims were to map the evolution of scores on upper limb measures over one year in children with unilateral CP and to identify factors that influence time trends. Methods: Eighty-one children (43 males, 38 females; mean age 9y11mo (SD 3y3mo) range 5-15 y) were tested at baseline, at 6 and 12 months. According to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, body function measurements included passive range of motion, muscle tone, manual muscle strength and grip strength. Activity measurements included the Melbourne Assessment, the Jebsen-Taylor test, the Assisting Hand Assessment and the Abilhand-Kids questionnaire. Age, gender, etiology (congenital or acquired lesions) and Manual Ability Classification System (MACS) levels were analyzed as predictive factors, using mixed models. Results: Scores for grip strength (p = 0.001) and manual dexterity (Jebsen-Taylor test, p < 0.0001) increased significantly over time. MACS level (p = 0.03) and etiology (p = 0.02) had a significant influence on the time evolution of the Jebsen-Taylor scores. Other assessments showed no significant changes. Conclusion: Motor impairments, movement quality and hemiplegic hand use in bimanual tasks do not spontaneously improve over one year, except for an age-related change in grip strength. However, an improvement was observed in manual dexterity, suggesting that some children can learn more adaptive movement strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Paediatric Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Activity limitations
  • Evolution
  • Impairments
  • Unilateral cerebral palsy
  • Upper limb


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