Reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the left hand and motor impairments of the unaffected right hand: impaired central motor processing?

GM Ribbers, T Mulder, AC Geurts, RA den Otter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To test whether central motor processing can be impaired in chronic reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).

DESIGN: Experimental 2-group analysis.

SETTING: Tertiary care center in the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: Five patients with stage 3 RSD of the left forearm, free of symptoms and complaints in the right forearm; and 10 healthy control subjects.

INTERVENTION: On a digitizer, RSD patients and controls had to draw 3 sequences of graphemes of different complexity with their (unaffected) dominant right hand. The drawing tracks were segmented in time periods between points of velocity minima of the pen tip.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Mean velocity, coefficients of variation of both length and movement time per segment, and mean intersegmental pausing time were calculated for each sequence.

RESULTS: A repeated-measures analysis of variance by using the multivariate method yielded a 35% lower mean velocity (F(1,13) = 5.83, P =.031), a 110% larger segment length variability (F(1,13) = 9.72, P =.008) and a 60% larger variability of movement time per segment (F(1,13) = 5.78, P =.032) in RSD patients. No group difference was found for intersegmental pausing time or any interaction effect with the type of task.

CONCLUSION: Patients with chronic RSD have a normal ability to preprogram sequential movements of their unaffected hand; but with impaired temporospatial coding and movement execution. We concluded that cortical mechanisms may be involved in motor impairments in patients with chronic RSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-85
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2002

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2002 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Research programs

  • EMC MUSC-01-46-01


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