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Abstract

This study aimed to identify the relationships between clinical impairments and gait deviations in children with cerebral palsy (CP). A retrospective convenience sample of 367 children with CP was selected (3–18 years old) and divided in two groups based on clinical symptomatology [unilateral (uCP) / bilateral CP (bCP), (n = 167/200)]. All children underwent a three-dimensional gait analysis and a standardized clinical examination. Gait was inspected on a vector level (all sagittal motions combined), and an individual joint level (pelvis, hip, knee and ankle joint motions). Statistical non-parametric mapping was applied to identify specific parts of the gait cycle displaying relationships between the gait deviations of both groups and the impairment scores of spasticity, weakness, selectivity, and passive range of motion. Impairment scores were summarized in two ways: a) composite impairment scores (e.g. combined spasticity of all assessed muscles acting around the hip, knee and ankle joints) and b) joint specific impairment scores (e.g. spasticity of the muscles acting around the knee joint). Results showed that the vector and most of the individual motions were related to the composite scores. Direct and carry-over relationships were found between certain individual motions and joint impairment scores (around the same or neighboring joints, respectively). All correlations were more prominent for children with bCP compared to uCP, especially regarding the relationships of gait deviations with weakness and reduced selectivity. In conclusion, this study enabled the mapping of relationships between clinical impairments and gait deviations in children with CP, by identifying specific parts of the gait cycle that are related to each of these impairments. These results provide a comprehensive description of these relationships, while simultaneously highlighting the differences between the two CP groups. Integration of these findings could lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of gait deviations and, eventually, support individualized treatment planning.

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