A clinical decision framework for the identification of main problems and treatment goals for ambulant children with bilateral spastic cerebral palsy

Res Dev Disabil. 2014 May;35(5):1160-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.01.025. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


The primary aim of the study was to investigate how a clinical decision process based on the International Classification of Function, Disability and Health (ICF) and the Hypothesis-Oriented Algorithm for Clinicians (HOAC-II) can contribute to a reliable identification of main problems in ambulant children with cerebral palsy (CP). As a secondary aim, to evaluate how the additional information from three-dimensional gait analysis (3DGA) can influence the reliability. Twenty-two physical therapists individually defined the main problems and specific goals of eight children with bilateral spastic CP. In four children, the results of 3DGA were provided additionally to the results of the clinical examination and the GMFM-88 (gross motor function measure-88). Frequency analysis was used to evaluate the selected main problems and goals. For the main problems, pair-wise agreement was calculated by the number of corresponding problems between the different therapists and using positive and negative agreement per problem. Cluster analysis using Ward's method was used to evaluate correspondence between the main problems and specific goals. The pair-wise agreement revealed frequencies of 47%, 32% and 3% for the identification of one, two or three corresponding main problems. The number of corresponding main problems was higher when additional information of 3DGA was provided. Most of the specific goals were targeting strength (34%), followed by range of motion (15.2%) and GMFM-D (11.8%). In 29.7% of the cases, therapists could not prioritize and exceeded the number of eight specific goals. Cluster analysis revealed a logic connection between the selection of strength as a main problem and as specific goal parameters. Alignment as a main problem was very often associated with specific parameters like ROM and muscle length and with hypertonia as a main problem. The results show a moderate agreement for the selection of main problems. Therapists are able to use the proposed model for a logic and structured clinical reasoning. Setting priorities in the definition of specific goals is revealed as a remaining difficulty. Further research is required to investigate the additional value of 3DGA and to improve priority setting.

Keywords: Cerebral palsy; Clinical decision; Clinical reasoning; Goal-setting; Physical therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cerebral Palsy / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / diagnosis
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Patient Care Planning*
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results