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Ankle Dorsiflexor Function After Plantar Flexor Surgery in Children with Cerebral Palsy
Jon R. Davids, MD1; Benjamin M. Rogozinski, DPT1; James W. Hardin, PhD2; Roy B. Davis, PhD1
1 Shriners Hospitals for Children, 950 West Faris Road, Greenville, SC 29605. E-mail address for J.R. Davids: jdavids@shrinenet.org
2 Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 730 Devine Street, Suite 114, Columbia, SC 29208
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Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

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Investigation performed at the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Greenville, and the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina

Copyright © 2011 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2011 Dec 07;93(23):e138 1-7. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00239
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Surgical lengthening is used to address both overactivity and shortening of the spastic agonist muscle in children with cerebral palsy. It has been presumed that the function of the antagonist muscle will improve when the spastic agonist muscle has been surgically lengthened. The purposes of the current study were to use quantitative gait analysis to determine the prevalence of the ankle dorsiflexor muscles (antagonist) dysfunction during the swing phase of the gait cycle and to analyze how this function is affected following surgical lengthening of the ankle plantar flexor muscles (agonist).


The study design was a retrospective, cohort series of fifty-three children with cerebral palsy who underwent gait analysis before and after surgical lengthening of the gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group. Data from the physical examination, gait study kinematics, and dynamic electromyography in swing phase were analyzed.


The mean age at the time of the initial gait analysis was eight years and eleven months. Significant improvements were noted in ankle dorsiflexion passive range of motion (p < 0.001), ankle dorsiflexor selective control (p = 0.002), ankle dorsiflexor strength (p = 0.001), and peak and mean ankle dorsiflexion in swing phase (p < 0.001 for each) following ankle plantar flexor lengthening surgery. Active ankle dorsiflexor function in swing phase was present in 79% of the extremities prior to ankle plantar flexor surgery. Swing phase dorsiflexor function was present in 96% of the extremities following surgery, with ten extremities improving from absent to present.


The kinematic data support the clinical impression that ankle dorsiflexion during swing phase is improved following ankle plantar flexor lengthening surgery in children with cerebral palsy. In the majority of patients, this was a consequence of the correction of a fixed equinus contracture of the ankle plantar flexors that was constraining preexisting ankle dorsiflexor function. Weakness of all of the muscles is common, and surgical lengthening should only be considered for the correction of recalcitrant muscle contractures. Improved function of the antagonist muscle should be anticipated and optimized by appropriately focused strength training and other modalities during rehabilitation.

Level of Evidence: 

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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