Investigation of hand muscle atrophy in stroke survivors

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2012 Mar;27(3):268-72. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Oct 26.


Background: Weakness is often profound in the contralesional hand after stroke. Relative contributions of various neural and mechanical mechanisms to this impairment, however, have not been quantified. In this study, the extent of one potential contributor, muscle atrophy, was noninvasively assessed in index finger musculature using ultrasonographic techniques.

Methods: Twenty-five stroke survivors (45-65 years old) with severe hand impairment resulting from a stroke occurring 2-4 years prior participated, along with 10 age-matched control subjects. Muscle cross sectional area and thickness were geometrically measured from ultrasound images on both limbs of participants.

Findings: Muscle size on the paretic limb of stroke survivors was smaller for all 7 hand muscles investigated. An average difference of 15% (SD 4) was seen for muscle cross sectional area and 11% (SD 2) for muscle thickness, while the difference between the dominant and non-dominant limbs for control subjects (6% (SD 2) and 1% (SD 4) for the muscle cross sectional area and muscle thickness, respectively) was not significant.

Interpretation: Although muscle atrophy was detected in the paretic limb following stroke, it is not explanatory of the marked impairment in strength seen in this stroke population. However, other alterations in muscle morphology, such as fatty infiltrations and changes in fiber structure, may contribute to the emergent muscle weakness post-stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hand / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography