Neuromuscular performance of paretic versus non-paretic plantar flexors after stroke.

18 Jun 2018

The objective of this study was to compare the neuromuscular function of the paretic and non-paretic plantar flexors (i.e. soleus, gastrocnemius medialis, lateralis) in chronic stroke patients. It was hypothesized that the contractile rate of force development (RFD) and neural activation, assessed by electromyogram (EMG) and V-waves normalized to the M-wave, and voluntary activation (twitch interpolation) would be reduced during plantar flexor maximum voluntary isometric contraction and that the evoked muscle twitch properties would be reduced in the paretic limb. Ten chronic stroke survivors completed the study. The main findings were that the paretic side showed deteriorated function compared to the non-paretic leg in terms of (1) RFD in all analyzed time windows from force onset to 250 ms, although relative RFD (i.e. normalized to maximum voluntary force) was similar; (2) fast neural activation (for most analyzed time windows), assessed by EMG activity in time windows from EMG onset to 250 ms; (3) V-wave responses (except for gastrocnemius medialis); (4) voluntary activation; (5) the evoked peak twitch force, although there was no evidence of intrinsic muscle slowing; (6) EMG activity obtained at maximal voluntary force. In conclusion, this study demonstrates considerable neuromuscular asymmetry of the plantar flexors in chronic stroke survivors. Effective rehabilitation regimes should be investigated.