Upper body kinematics in patients with cerebellar ataxia

Carmela Conte, Francesco Pierelli, Carlo Casali, Alberto Ranavolo, Francesco Draicchio, Giovanni Martino, Mahmoud Harfoush, Luca Padua, Gianluca Coppola, Giorgio Sandrini, Mariano Serrao
Cerebellum 2014, 13 (6): 689-97
Although abnormal oscillations of the trunk are a common clinical feature in patients with cerebellar ataxia, the kinematic behaviour of the upper body in ataxic patients has yet to be investigated in quantitative studies. In this study, an optoelectronic motion analysis system was used to measure the ranges of motion (ROMs) of the head and trunk segments in the sagittal, frontal and yaw planes in 16 patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia during gait at self-selected speed. The data obtained were compared with those collected in a gender-, age- and gait speed-matched sample of healthy subjects and correlated with gait variables (time-distance means and coefficients of variation) and clinical variables (disease onset, duration and severity). The results showed significantly larger head and/or trunk ROMs in ataxic patients compared with controls in all three spatial planes, and significant correlations between trunk ROMs and disease duration and severity (in sagittal and frontal planes) and time-distance parameters (in the yaw plane), and between both head and trunk ROMs and swing phase duration variability (in the sagittal plane). Furthermore, the ataxic patients showed a flexed posture of both the head and the trunk during walking. In conclusion, our study revealed abnormal motor behaviour of the upper body in ataxic patients, mainly resulting in a flexed posture and larger oscillations of the head and trunk. The results of the correlation analyses suggest that the longer and more severe the disease, the larger the upper body oscillations and that large trunk oscillations may explain some aspects of gait variability. These results suggest the need of specific rehabilitation treatments or the use of elastic orthoses that may be particularly useful to reduce trunk oscillations and improve dynamic stability.

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