Management of upper limb dysfunction in children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review


  • Section editor: R. N. Boyd

R. N. Boyd, Senior Research Physiotherapist, Hugh Williamson Gait Laboratory, Royal Children’s Hospital, Flemington Road., Parkville 3052, Victoria, Australia (tel.: +61 03 9345 7945; fax: +61 03 9345 5447; e-mail:


Effective use of the upper limb can impact on educational outcomes, participation in activities of daily living and vocational options for many children with cerebral palsy (CP). This article presents the results of a systematic review of the literature on the management of upper limb dysfunction in children with CP. The range of management options includes therapies such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy and conductive education; peripheral splinting and casting; focal or generalized pharmacotherapy; and surgery to improve upper limb function or correct deformity. A literature search identified 60 papers, of which four were randomized controlled trials and 44 were prospective studies with objective outcome measures. Principal studies undertaken for each type of treatment and the efficacy of the different types of treatment were critically evaluated. In addition, the current level of evidence for each study was evaluated according to Sackett’s (1989) model and ICIDH-2 classification. A close examination of two relatively new treatments for upper limb spasticity, constraint induced movement therapy and botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) was conducted with reference to more extensive data on the efficacy of BTX-A in the lower limb.