Interventions and lower-limb macroscopic muscle morphology in children with spastic cerebral palsy: a scoping review

Fenna Walhain, Kaat Desloovere, Marlies Declerck, Anja Van Campenhout, Lynn Bar-On

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To identify and map studies that have assessed the effect of interventions on lower-limb macroscopic muscle–tendon morphology in children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP). Method: We conducted a literature search of studies that included pre- and post-treatment measurements of lower-limb macroscopic muscle-tendon morphology in children with spastic CP. Study quality was evaluated and significant intervention effects and effect sizes were extracted. Results: Twenty-eight articles were identified. They covered seven different interventions including stretching, botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT-A), strengthening, electrical stimulation, whole-body vibration, balance training, and orthopaedic surgery. Study quality ranged from poor (14 out of 28 studies) to good (2 out of 28). Study samples were small (n=4–32) and studies were variable regarding which muscles and macroscopic morphological parameters were assessed. Inconsistent effects after intervention (thickness and cross-sectional area for strengthening, volume for BoNT-A), no effect (belly length for stretching), and small effect sizes were reported. Interpretation: Intervention studies reporting macroscopic muscle–tendon remodelling after interventions are limited and heterogeneous, making it difficult to generalize results. Studies that include control groups and standardized assessment protocols are needed to improve study quality and data synthesis. Lack or inconclusive effects at the macroscopic level could indicate that the effects of interventions should also be evaluated at the microscopic level. What this paper adds: Muscle-targeted interventions to remodel muscle morphology are not well understood. Studies reporting macroscopic muscle remodelling following interventions are limited and heterogeneous. Passive stretching may preserve but does not increase muscle length. The effects of isolated botulinum neurotoxin A injections on muscle volume are inconsistent. Isolated strengthening shows no consistent increase in muscle volume or thickness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-286
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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