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Open Access Research article

Intramuscular fat in ambulant young adults with bilateral spastic cerebral palsy

Jonathan J Noble13*, Geoffrey D Charles-Edwards2, Stephen F Keevil2, Andrew P Lewis13, Martin Gough3 and Adam P Shortland3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, King’s College London, The Rayne Institute, 4th Floor, Lambeth Wing, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1 7EH, United Kingdom

2 Department of Medical Physics, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, The Rayne Institute, 4th Floor, Lambeth Wing, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1 7EH, United Kingdom

3 One Small Step Gait Laboratory, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Guy’s Hospital, London SE1 9RT, United Kingdom

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:236  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-236

Published: 12 July 2014



It is known that individuals with bilateral spastic cerebral palsy (BSCP) have small and weak muscles. However, no studies to date have investigated intramuscular fat infiltration in this group. The objective of this study is to determine whether adults with BSCP have greater adiposity in and around their skeletal muscles than their typically developing (TD) peers as this may have significant functional and cardio-metabolic implications for this patient group.


10 young adults with BSCP (7 male, mean age 22.5 years, Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) levels I-III), and 10 TD young adults (6 male, mean age 22.8 years) took part in this study. 11 cm sections of the left leg of all subjects were imaged using multi-echo gradient echo chemical shift imaging (mDixon). Percentage intermuscular fat (IMAT), intramuscular fat (IntraMF) and a subcutaneous fat to muscle volume ratio (SF/M) were calculated.


IntraMF was higher with BSCP for all muscles (p = 0.001-0.013) and was significantly different between GMFCS levels (p < 0.001), with GMFCS level III having the highest IntraMF content. IMAT was also higher with BSCP p < 0.001). No significant difference was observed in SF/M between groups.


Young adults with BSCP have increased intermuscular and intramuscular fat compared to their TD peers. The relationship between these findings and potential cardio-metabolic and functional sequelae are yet to be investigated.

Cerebral palsy; Intramuscular fat; Magnetic resonance imaging; Dixon imaging