What does a finding of spasticity indicate in the evaluation of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)?

Updated: Jul 18, 2018
  • Author: Santina A Zanelli, MD; Chief Editor: Dharmendra J Nimavat, MD, FAAP  more...
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Spasticity is a velocity-dependent increase in tone that is generally most prominent with limb extension in muscle groups with antigravitational action (arm flexion, plantar extension). This sign can be seen over time in infants with corticospinal tract damage caused by a hypoxic-ischemic insult. In the neonatal period, spasticity is commonly noted first and is most prominent in the distal parts of the extremities. All fingers are flexed with the thumb under the second to fifth fingers, a pattern commonly referred to as cortical thumbs. Fewer than 5-10 beats of ankle clonus may be present in healthy neonates, but infants with damage to the corticospinal tract may have sustained ankle clonus. However, the initial motor manifestation will be flaccid hypotonia with spasticity later developing.

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