Evidence to Practice: Botulinum Toxin in the Treatment of Spasticity Post Stroke

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Abstract

Introduction:

Spasticity is a significant problem following stroke. Although there is extensive research examining the efficacy of botulinum toxin as a treatment, there are challenges in implementing its use.

Methods:

The results from previously published randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews examining the use of botulinum toxin as a treatment for poststroke spasticity of the upper and lower limb and the shoulder are summarized. Several barriers to implementation are discussed.

Results:

There is strong evidence that denervation of muscles, in the lower extremity and upper extremity post stroke, with botulinum toxin reduces focal spasticity. There is also strong evidence that it is associated with a small but significant improvement in gait velocity based on a recent meta-analysis. However, evidence that botulinum toxin injections are associated with improved function and improved quality of life is not as compelling. There is evidence that botulinum toxin injected into the subscapularis muscle can reduce spastic shoulder pain and improve passive range of motion of the hemiplegic shoulder. There are a number of challenges with botulinum toxin, including uncertainty over its role in improving motor dysfunction following stroke, the determination of which subsets of patients may benefit, the cost of treatment, and the identification of meaningful outcome measures.

Conclusions:

Botulinum toxin has been shown to be an effective treatment in reducing tone and managing spasticity post stroke. However, its effectiveness in improving function has been more controversial.

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