Tendon transfer surgery in upper-extremity cerebral palsy is more effective than botulinum toxin injections or regular, ongoing therapy

Ann E. Van Heest, Anita Bagley, Fred Molitor, Michelle A. James

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: For children with upper-extremity cerebral palsy (CP) who meet standard indications for tendon transfer surgery, we hypothesized that surgical treatment would result in greater functional improvement than treatment with botulinum toxin injections or regular, ongoing therapy. Methods: Thirty-nine children with upper-extremity CP, who were four to sixteen years of age and surgical candidates for the transfer of the flexor carpi ulnaris to the extensor carpi radialis brevis, pronator teres release, and extensor pollicis longus rerouting with adductor pollicis release, were prospectively assigned, either randomly (twenty-nine patients) or by patient/family preference (ten patients), to one of three treatment groups: surgical treatment (Group 1); botulinum toxin injections (Group 2); or regular, ongoing therapy (Group 3). Seven centers participated. Assessment measurements included active range of motion, pinch and grip strength, stereognosis, and scores as measured with eight additional functional or patient-oriented outcome instruments. Thirty-four patients (twenty-five randomized and nine from the patientpreference arm) were evaluated twelve months post-treatment as the study cohort. Results: For the primary outcome of the Shriners Hospital Upper Extremity Evaluation (SHUEE) dynamic positional analysis (DPA), significantly greater improvement was seen in Group 1 than in the other two groups (p < 0.001). Improvements in SHUEE DPA reflected improved supination and wrist extension during functional activities after surgical treatment. Group 1 showed more improvement in the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) CP module domain of movement and in the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) score for satisfaction than Groups 2 and 3. Both Groups 1 and 3 showed more improvement in pinch strength than did Group 2. Conclusions: For children with upper-extremity CP who were candidates for standard tendon transfer, surgical treatment was demonstrated to provide greater improvement, of modest magnitude, than botulinum toxin injections or regular, ongoing therapy at twelve months of follow-up for the SHUEE DPA, the PedsQL CP module domain of movement, and COPM satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-536
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - American Volume
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

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Copyright © 2015 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated.


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