Background Following a stroke, intrinsic muscle properties such as stiffness may be altered, which is accompanied by increased spasticity and contractures. Previously, quantification of muscle stiffness has been based off of indirect measurements. Using shear wave ultrasound elastography, direct measurements of muscle material properties can be made. Methods Our aim was to evaluate material properties, specifically passive stiffness, using shear wave ultrasound elastography across a range of muscle lengths, in the medial gastrocnemius and the tibialis anterior in chronic stroke survivors. Findings Our main results show significant increases of 27.7% and 26.9% in shear wave velocity of stroke-impaired medial gastrocnemius compared to the unimpaired contralateral side at 90° ankle angle (P = 0.033) and 15° plantarflexion (P = 0.001), respectively. However, no significant difference was found in the tibialis anterior between the two sides. Relatively weak correlations were found between SW velocity in the medial gastrocnemius and joint stiffness for both the non-paretic (ρ = 0.384, P = 0.001), and paretic side (ρ = 0.363, P = 0.002). Additionally, muscle stiffness estimates of stroke-impaired tibialis anterior from joint torque and angle measurements were significantly greater by 23.1% (P = 0.033) than the unimpaired contralateral side. However, no significant difference was found in the medial gastrocnemius. Interpretation These results indicate that there are non-uniform changes in passive stiffness of stroke-impaired muscle. Therefore, muscles need to be evaluated individually to assess alterations. Additionally, interpretation of joint-based calculations of muscle stiffness should be made cautiously. Having the ability to non-invasively assess muscle stiffness adaptations in vivo would aid in prognosis, evaluation, and treatment following a stroke.
- Shear wave elastography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine