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Special Test

Duncan Ely Test

The Duncan Ely Test or Ely test is used to assess the rectus femoris muscle tightness or contracture at the hip joint.

How do you perform the Duncan Ely Test?

The patient is positioned prone with knees kept in extension. The knee joint is passively flexed on the side of examination table by the examiner.

Normally, there is no motion of the hip or pelvis while the knee flexes completely.

See Also: Thomas Test
Ely Test
Passive flexion of the knee in the presence of a tight rectus femoris leads to the ipsilateral buttock rising.

What does a positive Ely Test Mean?

In patients with rectus femoris contracture, complete passive knee flexion results in involuntary flexion at the hip, elevating the buttocks of the examination table. The other side is tested for comparison.

Test Reliability

The sensitivity and specificity of the Ely test were:

  • Sensitivity: 56 to 59%.
  • Specificity: 64-85%.

The Ely test was shown to have a good positive predictive value (i.e. the certainty about the presence of rectus spasticity in patients with a positive Ely test result) for rectus femoris dysfunction during gait.

Notes

The disadvantage of this test is that it is not specific for rectus femoris in patients with hip flexion contracture secondary to iliopsoas tightness.

Another method to assess the rectus femoris muscles tightness is the Rectus grab, where the patient is positioned supine, and the knee is rapidly flexed. If the examiner feels resistance to flexion, then the test is positive, and the rectus is spastic. The positive grab along with increased popliteal angle is an indication for distal hamstring lengthening with simultaneous rectus femoris transfer.

Rectus Femoris muscle crosses two joints, namely the hip and knee joints, and it acts as a flexor of the hip at the initial swing and an extensor of the knee. Normally, the knee flexes up to 60° in early swing. This knee flexion might get restricted in rectus tightness, which leads to difficulty in clearing the foot during the swing phase.

Related Anatomy

The rectus femoris muscle, one of the four quadriceps muscles, is a two-joint muscle that arises from two tendons: one, the anterior or straight, from the anterior inferior iliac spine (AIIS); the other, the posterior or reflected, from a groove above the brim of the acetabulum.

The rectus femoris combines movements of flexion at the hip and extension at the knee. It functions more effectively as a hip flexor when the knee is flexed, as when a person kicks a ball.

The line of pull of the rectus femoris, with respect to the patella, is at an angle of about 5 degrees with the femoral shaft.

See Also: 
rectus femoris muscle
Rectus Femoris Muscle

References

  1. Marks MC, Alexander J, Sutherland DH, Chambers HG. Clinical utility of the Duncan-Ely test for rectus femoris dysfunction during the swing phase of gait. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2003 Nov;45(11):763-8. doi: 10.1017/s0012162203001415. PMID: 14580132.
  2. Lee, S.Y., Sung, K.H., Chung, C.Y., Lee, K.M., Kwon, S.-S., Kim, T.G., Lee, S.H., Lee, I.H. and Park, M.S. (2015), Reliability and validity of the Duncan-Ely test for assessing rectus femoris spasticity in patients with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol, 57: 963-968. https://doi.org/10.1111/dmcn.12761
  3. The line of pull of the rectus femoris, with respect to the patella, is at an angle of about 5 degrees with the femoral shaft.
  4. Dutton’s Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, And Intervention 3rd Edition.
Last Reviewed
January 11, 2024
Contributed by
OrthoFixar

Orthofixar does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice.

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