Background: Spasticity is a common sequela of stroke. Traditional assessment methods include relatively coarse scales that may not capture all characteristics of elevated muscle tone. Thus, the aim of this study was to develop a tool to quantitatively assess post-stroke spasticity in the upper extremity.
Methods: Ninety-six healthy individuals and 46 individuals with stroke participated in this study. The kinematic assessment of passive stretch (KAPS) protocol consisted of passive elbow stretch in flexion and extension across an 80° range in 5 movement durations. Seven parameters were identified and assessed to characterize spasticity (peak velocity, final angle, creep (or release), between-arm peak velocity difference, between-arm final angle, between-arm creep, and between-arm catch angle).
Results: The fastest movement duration (600 ms) was most effective at identifying impairment in each parameter associated with spasticity. A decrease in peak velocity during passive stretch between the affected and unaffected limb was most effective at identifying individuals as impaired. Spasticity was also associated with a decreased passive range (final angle) and a classic 'catch and release' as seen through between-arm catch and creep metrics.
Conclusions: The KAPS protocol and robotic technology can provide a sensitive and quantitative assessment of post-stroke elbow spasticity not currently attainable through traditional measures.
Keywords: Robotics; Spasticity; Stroke; Upper extremity.