Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)




Maureen MacDonald


Brian Timmons



Committee Member

Jan Willem Gorter


Functional limitations place youth with cerebral palsy (CP) at an increased risk of physical inactivity and cardiovascular disease. The structure and function of the cardiovascular system of these adolescents has not been previously investigated. In the current cross-sectional study, endothelial function was assessed using flow-mediated dilation (FMD) in eleven adolescents with CP (age 13.2 ± 2.1 y) and compared to eleven healthy, age-and gender-matched control participants (12.4 ± 2.3 y). All participants with CP were ambulatory or ambulatory with assistive devices (lower leg brace) and classified as levels I-II according to the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS). Baseline arterial stiffness was examined through assessment of central and peripheral pulse wave velocity (cPWV, pPWV,) as well as carotid distensibility, a direct measure of central artery stiffness. A combination of B-mode ultrasound imaging and applanation tonometry was used to calculate carotid distensibility. Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), a measure of vascular structure, was also quantified using B-mode ultrasound images and a semi-automated edge detection software program. cPWV was calculated using the distance (carotid to femoral via the subtraction method) and time delay between ventricular depolarization and the foot of the femoral waveform. pPWV was calculated from the femoral to dorsalis pedis artery using the distance between each site and time delay between the arrival of the foot of each corresponding waveform. Physical activity (PA) levels were assessed using a 7-day recall questionnaire. Anthropometric measurements as well as measures of resting systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressures were similar in both groups. There were no group differences (p>0.05) in ivabsolute, relative or normalized FMD responses. Both groups also had similar values of carotid IMT as well as all measures of arterial stiffness including carotid distensibility, cPWV and pPWV (p>0.05). No group differences were found in the amount of time spent in light and moderate intensity PA; however, the control group participated in a significantly greater amount of vigorous intensity PA (CON: 196 ± 174 min. vs. CP: 38 ± 80 min). Pearson correlation coefficients with all participants revealed a significant positive relationship between age and cPWV (r=0.485 p=0.026) and negative relationship with carotid compliance (r=-0.436, p=0.048). These findings indicate that the arterial structure and function of youth with CP (GMFCS level I-II), examined in this study are not different from a healthy control group. Future research should include youth with CP of GMFCS levels III-V to gain further insight into the potential consequences of severe mobility impairments and functional limitations on levels of habitual PA and arterial health in this young, clinical population.

McMaster University Library

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