Evaluation of Functional Independence in Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: Implications for Surgery to Restore Upper Limb Function

Department of Defense (DOD) Group, European Multicenter Study of Spinal Cord Injury (EMSCI) Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: To help individuals make informed choices regarding the optimal type and timing of restorative surgical treatment for cervical spinal cord injury (SCI), more precise information is needed on their ability to perform activities of daily living. The goal of this work was to describe functional independence achieved by individuals with differing levels of cervical SCI. Methods: Using the comprehensive European Multicenter Study of Spinal Cord Injury dataset, analysis was undertaken of individuals with traumatic SCI, motor-level C5–C8. Data on feeding, bladder management, and transfers (bed to wheelchair) were compared between individuals with different levels of injury. Subgroup analyses of symmetrical and asymmetrical SCI and between complete and incomplete SCI were performed. The impact of age, sex, and time postinjury on functional independence was ascertained. Results: Data were available for individuals with symmetrical (n = 204) and asymmetrical (n = 95) patterns of SCI. Independence with feeding, urinary function, and transfer ability was increased in individuals with strong finger flexion. Unexpectedly, the presence of strong elbow extension did not uniformly result in the ability to transfer independently. There was no change in any of the analyzed activities between 6 and 12 months postinjury. Conclusions: People with cervical SCI who gain finger flexion have greater independence with feeding, urinary, and transfer activities. Restoration of finger flexion should be a reconstructive priority for individuals with midcervical-level SCI. Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621.e1-621.e17
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Volume46
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Cervical-level spinal cord injury
  • Spinal Cord Independence Measure (SCIM)
  • nerve transfers
  • tetraplegia
  • upper extremity function

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