Management of the spastic wrist and hand in cerebral palsy

Nels D. Leafblad, Ann E Van Heest

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Research from the last 5 years on the pathophysiology and treatment of upper extremity sequelae of cerebral palsy (CP) is presented. The development of new treatments of CP-affected limbs, utilizing the brain's inherent neuroplasticity, remains an area of promising and active research. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans have evaluated the role of neuroplasticity in adapting to the initial central nervous system insult. Children with CP appear to have greater recruitment of the ipsilateral brain for motor and sensory functions of the affected upper limb. Studies have also shown that constraint-induced movement therapy results in localized increase in gray matter volume of the sensorimotor cortex contralateral to the affected arm targeted during rehabilitation. Recent therapy interventions have emphasized the role of home therapy programs, the transient effects of splinting, and the promise of constraint-induced movement therapy and bimanual hand training. The use of motion laboratory analysis to characterize the movement pattern disturbances in children with CP continues to expand. Classification systems for CP upper limb continue to expand and improve their reliability, including use of the House Classification, the Manual Ability Classification System, and the Shriner's Hospital Upper Extremity Evaluation. Surgical outcomes have greater patients' satisfaction when they address functional limitations, also in addition to aesthetics, which may improve patients' self-esteem. Surgical techniques for elbow, wrist, fingers, and thumb continue to be refined. Research into each of these areas continues to expand our understanding of the nervous system insults that cause CP, how they may be modified, and how hand surgeons can continue to serve patients by improving their upper limb function and aesthetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54322
Pages (from-to)1035-1040
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Cerebral palsy
  • stereognosis


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