Musculoskeletal Medicine and PainORIGINAL ARTICLE

Limb spasticity and telemedicine consultation for reconstructive surgery: patient perspectives of surgical assessment

Abigail Bardwell, DO; Christopher S. Crowe, MD; and Peter C. Rhee, DO, MS
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: October 17, 2023

Accepted: February 14, 2024

Published: March 19, 2024

  • Abigail Bardwell, DO, 

    Division of Hand Surgery, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

  • Christopher S. Crowe, MD, 

    Division of Hand Surgery, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

  • Peter C. Rhee, DO, MS, 

    200 1st Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA


Context: Spasticity is characterized by increased muscle tone and stretch reflexes, often caused by an upper motor neuron (UMN) syndrome. Many patients live with their dysfunction of their upper or lower limbs for many years and are managed by a multidisciplinary team including physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, neurologists, and/or physical therapists in an attempt to decrease their spasticity and enhance their quality of life. Reconstructive surgery is a treatment option for many patients living with spasticity. The goal of surgery is to permanently decrease their spastic tone and improve their quality of life. Spastic hemiplegia or hemiparesis is an area of orthopedic surgery that is uniquely suited to telemedicine evaluation. Telemedicine visits can lower the threshold for patients to obtain consultation, receive second opinions, and determine whether traveling for an in-person assessment might be worthwhile, particular to larger medical centers.

Objectives: The objective of our study was to characterize patient perceptions of telemedicine consultation for spasticity surgery and to determine its effectiveness for indicating reconstructive procedures.

Methods: An electronic survey consisting of 16 questions was distributed to all patients after the virtual consultation from April 2020 to September 2022 as part of a neuro-orthopedic evaluation. Domains of inquiry included patient demographic and diagnosis information, satisfaction with provider assessment, ease of use, appointment preference, and whether surgery was eventually performed. Identifying information was voluntarily provided by patients and allowed for survey data to be linked to the medical record. Patients were included in the study if they were diagnosed with upper and/or lower extremity spasticity, were evaluated by telemedicine visit, and were over the age of 18. They were excluded from the study if they were evaluated for any condition aside from spasticity or returned an incomplete survey. Patients who completed the survey were prospectively followed through December 2022 to determine whether a subsequent in-person visit was pursued and/or reconstructive surgery was performed.

Results: A total of 19 of 36 patients completed surveys, for a response rate of 52.7 %. Nearly all (94.7 %, n=18) patients felt that the provider expressed maximal concern for patient questions/worries, included them in decisions regarding care, and appropriately discussed treatment strategies. Similarly, the majority (89.5 %, n=17) were maximally satisfied with explanations about their condition and would recommend the care provider to others. Most patients (84.2 %, n=16) also felt that the ease of communication via the virtual platform was very good. All patients were eventually indicated for and subsequently underwent reconstructive surgery for spasticity.

Conclusions: Spasticity patients were overwhelmingly satisfied with their initial virtual consultation as an alternative to face-to-face visits. Telemedicine provides a clinical opportunity for seeking information about spasticity surgery and offers a cost-effective and convenient option for patients who find travel to specialty centers prohibitive.

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