[Shoulder-hand syndrome in patients after stroke]

Neurol Neurochir Pol. Jan-Feb 1999;33(1):131-42.
[Article in Polish]


Basing on the literature, the information on the shoulder-hand syndrome in stroke patients is presented. The syndrome is believed to be a clinical form of algodystrophy of the upper extremity. The main signs and symptoms include pain and considerable reduction of movement in shoulder joint, wrist and hand. The condition usually develops 1-6 months after stroke with pain and loss of range of motion in the shoulder at the beginning; then the distal part of the extremity is involved. The syndrome is considered to develop in three consecutive phases: I--acute, II--dystrophic and III--atrophic. Besides classical clinical form, affecting distal and proximal part of extremity, the incomplete forms confined only to one of this parts may exist. The prevalence of the condition is rated at 12.5-27% in stroke patients. It is believed that the development of the syndrome is related to altered biomechanics of the hemiplegic shoulder. Stability of the joint is considerably affected due to paresis or palsy of shoulder girdle muscles what results in partial subluxation of humeral head. Repeated microtraumas of shoulder joint may cause chronic pain and may initiate development of abnormal, regional sensory-sympathetic reflex arch, or--according to the other concept--it results in "sensitization" of neurons in the dorsal horn; this state may alter dorsal horn central mechanisms processing sensory and painful stimuli. The diagnosis of the syndrome is based on clinical ground. Three-phase bone scintigraphy is believed to be the most useful additional diagnostic test. The diagnostic and predictive value of this technique is presented. For all advantages of scintigraphic examination, it does not need to be performed in the majority of stroke patients since the presence of typical signs and symptoms is usually sufficient to make a diagnosis. The treatment of shoulder-hand syndrome included administration of steroids with satisfactory response. The role of proper physical therapy in improving of the results of treatment as well as in prophylactics of the syndrome is emphasised. Considering the fact that many of stroke patients may have contraindications to steroid therapy, other methods of effective treatment are proposed.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications*
  • Humans
  • Radionuclide Imaging / methods
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / diagnosis
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / etiology*
  • Risk Factors