Orthopaedic issues in the musculoskeletal care of adults with cerebral palsy


    The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Helen M Horstmann at Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA. E-mail: Helen.Horstmann@uphs.upenn.edu


Aims  Orthopaedic care of adults with cerebral palsy (CP) has not been well documented in orthopaedic literature. This paper focuses on some of the common problems which present themselves when adults with CP seek orthopaedic intervention. In particular, we review the most common orthopaedic issues which present to the Penn Neuro-Orthopaedics Program.

Method  A formal review of consecutive surgeries performed by the senior author on adults with CP was previously conducted. This paper focuses on the health delivery care for the adult with orthopaedic problems related to cerebral palsy. Ninety-two percent of these patients required lower extremity surgery. Forty percent had procedures performed on the upper extremities.

Results  The majority of problems seen in the Penn Neuro-Orthopaedics Program are associated with the residuals of childhood issues, particularly deformities associated with contractures. Patients are also referred for treatment of acquired musculoskeletal problems such as degenerative arthritis of the hip or knee. A combination of problems contribute most frequently to foot deformities and pain with weight-bearing, shoewear or both, most often due to equinovarus. The surgical correction of this is most often facilitated through a split anterior tibial tendon transfer. Posterior tibial transfers are rarely indicated. Residual equinus deformities contribute to a pes planus deformity. The split anterior tibial tendon transfer is usually combined with gastrocnemius-soleus recession and plantar release. Transfer of the flexor digitorum longus to the os calcis is done to augment the plantar flexor power. Rigid pes planus deformity is treated with a triple arthrodesis. Resolution of deformity allows for a good base for standing, improved ability to tolerate shoewear, and/or braces. Other recurrent or unresolved issues involve hip and knee contractures. Issues of lever arm dysfunction create problems with mechanical inefficiency. Upper extremity intervention is principally to correct contractures. Internal rotation and adductor tightness at the shoulder makes for difficult underarm hygiene and predispose a patient to a spiral fracture of the humerus. A tight flexor, pronation pattern is frequently noted through the elbow and forearm with further flexion contractures through the wrist and fingers. Lengthenings are more frequently performed than tendon transfers in the upper extremity. Arthrodesis of the wrist or on rare occasions of the metacarpal-phalangeal joints supplement the lengthenings when needed.

Conclusions  The Penn Neuro-Orthopaedics Program has successfully treated adults with both residual and acquired musculoskeletal deformities. These deformities become more critical when combined with degenerative changes, a relative increase in body mass, fatigue, and weakness associated with the aging process.