Implications of providing wrist-hand orthoses for children with cerebral palsy: evidence from a randomised controlled trial

Christine Imms, Margaret Wallen, Catherine Elliott, Brian Hoare, Susan Greaves, Melinda Randall, Francesca Orsini

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Purpose: To investigate the effects of providing rigid wrist-hand orthoses plus usual multidisciplinary care, on reducing hand impairments in children with cerebral palsy. Methods: A pragmatic, multicentre, assessor-blinded randomised controlled trial aimed to enrol 194 children aged 5–15 years, with wrist flexor Modified Ashworth Scale score ≥1. Randomisation with concealed allocation was stratified by study site and passive wrist range. The treatment group received a rigid wrist-hand orthosis, to wear ≥6 h per night for 3 years. Analysis included repeated measures mixed-effects linear regression models, using intention-to-treat principles. Results: The trial stopped early due to insufficient recruitment: 74 children, across all Manual Ability Classification System levels, were randomised (n = 38 orthosis group; n = 36 control). Mean age was 10.2 (SD 3.1) years (orthosis group) and 9.1 (SD 2.8) years (control). Data showed some evidence that rigid wrist-hand orthosis impacted passive wrist extension with fingers extended in the first year [mean difference between-groups at 6 months: 13.15° (95%CI: 0.81–25.48°, p = 0.04); 12 months: 20.94° (95%CI: 8.20–33.69°, p = 0.001)]. Beyond 18 months, participant numbers were insufficient for conclusive findings. Conclusion: The study provided detailed data about short- and long-term effects of the wrist-hand orthosis and highlighted challenges in conducting large randomised controlled trials with this population. Trial Registration: Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: U1111-1164-0572 IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION There may be incremental benefit, for children with cerebral palsy, at 6 and 12 months on passive wrist range from wearing a rigid wrist-hand orthosis designed according to this protocol. The rigid-wrist-hand orthosis evaluated in this study, which allowed for some tailoring for individual children’s presentations, differed in design from past recommendations for “resting hand” positioning. Longitudinal follow up of children with cerebral palsy prescribed a rigid wrist-hand orthosis is essential to monitor any benefit. Minor adverse events were commonly experienced when wearing the orthosis and should be discussed prior to prescription of a rigid wrist-hand orthosis.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral palsy
  • child
  • randomised controlled trial
  • range of movement
  • upper limb impairment

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