Use and functioning of the affected limb in children with unilateral congenital below-elbow deficiency during infancy and preschool age: A longitudinal observational multiple case study

Mijna Hadders-Algra, Heleen A. Reinders-Messelink, Karin Huizing, Rik van den Berg, Corry K. van der Sluis, Carel G. B. Maathuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Children with unilateral congenital below elbow deficiency (UCBED) lack a part of an arm, thereby lacking a part of the typical hand function. Little is known on the performance of daily activities in very young children with UCBED, usage of their affected arm with or without prosthesis during play, and neurological condition.

Aim: To explore daily activities, the use of the affected limb with or without prosthesis and neurological condition over time in young children with UCBED.

Design: A longitudinal observational multiple case study.

Methods: Four children with UCBED were assessed (first assessment at 3-16 months) every 6-8 months (follow-up 13-49 months) with a video-recorded, standardized play session and a neurological examination. Yearly, functioning in daily activities was evaluated using the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory - Dutch Version (PEDI-NL). Play behaviour was assessed with and without prosthesis, where applicable (n = 2). Video-analysis focused on achievement, exploration, variation and adaptability of the affected limb. Behavioural changes over time were plotted and analysed visually.

Results: Over time, children with UCBED showed efficient usage of their affected arm during spontaneous play. Prosthesis use seemed to be associated with reduced manipulation, exploration, variation and adaptation. Three children showed minor neurological dysfunction. Functioning in daily activities was comparable to a norm population.

Conclusion: The short limb of children with UCBED is used as an exploratory, manipulatory and fixating tool from the beginning of infancy. Its value seems to be reflected in these children's normal functioning in daily life. Prosthetic use may lead to less effective performance. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2013


  • Child
  • Upper limb deficiency
  • Limb usage
  • Functioning daily life
  • ARM

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