Compensation for distal impairments of grasping in adults with hemiparesis

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Previous studies have shown that patients with arm and hand paresis following stroke recruit an additional degree of freedom (the trunk) to transport the hand during reaching and use alternative strategies for grasping. The few studies of grasping parameters of the impaired hand have been case studies mainly focusing on describing grasping in the presence of particular impairments such as hemi-neglect or optic ataxia and have not focussed on the role of the trunk in prehension. We hypothesized that the trunk movement not only ensures the transport of the hand to the object, but it also assists in orienting the hand for grasping when distal deficits are present. Nineteen patients with chronic hemiparesis and seven healthy subjects participated in the study. Patients had sustained a stroke of non-traumatic origin 6-82 months previously (31±22 months) and had mild or moderate to severe arm paresis. Using a whole hand grasp, subjects reached and grasped a cylinder (35 mm) that was placed sagittally (T1) or at a 45° angle to the sagittal midline in the ipsilateral workspace (T2), both at about 90% arm's length (10 trials per target). Eight infrared emitting diodes were placed on bony landmarks of the hand, arm and trunk and kinematic data were recorded by an optical motion analysis system (Optotrak) for 2-5 s at 120 Hz. Hand position and orientation were recorded by a Fastrack Polhemus system. Our results show that during goal-directed prehension tasks, individuals with hemiparesis oriented the hand more frontally for grasping and used more trunk anterior displacement or rotation to transport the hand to the target compared to healthy subjects. Despite these changes, the major characteristics of reaching and grasping such as grip aperture size, temporal coordination between hand transport and aperture formation and the relative timing of grip aperture were largely preserved. For patients with more severe distal impairments, the amount of trunk displacement was also correlated with a more frontal hand orientation for grasping. Furthermore, in healthy subjects and patients without distal impairments, the trunk movement was mostly related to proximal arm movements while in those with distal impairments, trunk movement was related to both proximal and distal arm movements. Data support the hypothesis that the trunk movement is used to assist both arm transport and hand orientation for grasping when distal deficits are present.

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