Restoring Hand Function after Spinal Cord Surgery
Spinal cord injuries damage nerves entering and exiting the spine, and in turn affect various movements controlled by them. When the upper spine is involved, injury may result in disabling paralysis to the arms or legs called tetraplegia. A surgical procedure known as tendon transfer is indicated to restore function to the arms and hands, thereby reinstating your independence in performing daily functions.
Restoration of hand functions indicated for tendon transfer include:
- Straightening and bending of the elbow
- Straightening and bending of the wrist
- Grip/pinch function of the hand and fingers
Tendon transfer is usually performed a year following the injury to give the body a chance to recover. If no progress is achieved, your doctor will examine the extent of muscle function loss and the availability of tendons for transfer before determining which tendon transfer procedure would be beneficial to you. Tendons connect muscles to bones and pass across a joint to produce movement. The surgery involves the transfer of a part of a functional tendon (for example a deltoid muscle tendon from the shoulder) to replace a paralyzed tendon of the affected limb (for example triceps muscle tendon of the upper arm).
Following surgery, healing is promoted with immobilization and range of movement is maintained by passive/assisted exercises.
When tendon transfer is not an option, electronic implants may be inserted to stimulate muscles that perform pinch and grasp movements.