Upper extremity function has a strong impact on the quality of life in cervical spinal cord-injured patients. Upper extremity function depends on many factors, such as muscle strength, level of lesion, and extension of the cord damage in its axial axis produced by the injury. These variables can be obtained by the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury, which is the standard for the functional evaluation of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. The aim of this study was to describe the relationship between upper limb muscle strength, level of injury, and axial damage with the functionality of upper limb measured using the Jebsen-Taylor Hand Function Test (JTHFT) and the 9 Hole Peg Test (9HPT) in cervical SCI. Twenty-nine patients were included in this study. Our results suggest that both the JTHFT and 9HPT can be similarly used to quantify functional impairment after cervical SCI. Moreover, our data suggest that the upper extremity motor score, JTHFT, and 9HPT strongly correlate with the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) impairment scale (graded from A to E), but not with the lesion level. Our findings can be of great importance for the clinician or researchers whose therapeutic interventions have as a main objective to improve upper limb functionality in patients with cervical SCI. We suggest that ASIA impairment scale, ASIA motor score, and functional tests (including JTHFT and/or 9HPT) could be used as outcome measures in cervical SCI clinical trials.
Keywords: ASIA; SCI; cervical; hand motor function; tetraplegia.