This extract is taken from 'The Journal of Hand Surgery' (1996) i thought it was useful info to add as it demonstrates the potential for hand surgery and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) for the restoration of hand function.
Spinal cord injury at the C5 and C6 level results in loss of hand function. Electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles is one approach that has demonstrated significant capacity for restoring grasp and release function. One potential limitation of this approach is that key muscles for stimulation may have lower motor neuron damage, rendering the muscles unexcitable. We have used surgical modification of the biomechanics of the hand to overcome this limitation. Tendon transfer of paralyzed but lower motor neuron intact muscles can compensate for potential function lost owing to muscles with lower motor neuron damage.
Such procedures have been performed to provide finger extension, thumb extension, finger flexion, and wrist extension. Additional surgical procedures have been performed to enhance the function provided with electrical stimulation. These are side-to-side synchronization of the finger flexor and extensor tendons, the flexor digitorium superficialis Zancolli-lasso procedure, and thumb interphalangeal joint arthrodesis.
These procedures have been performed in 11 patients with C5 and C6 level spinal injuries and functional electrical stimulation neuroprostheses. In these patients, 41 different functional electrical stimulation-related procedures were performed and 38 gave the desired result after surgery.
One procedure resulted in no increase or decrease in function or muscle output, and two procedures resulted in a decrease in muscle force or joint range of motion.
More reading and info on nerve transfers and restored funstion of hand and arm...notes from The.Department of Neurological Surgery, Center for Nerve Injury and Paralysis
Background: The recovery of hand function is consistently rated as the highest priority for persons with tetraplegia.
Recovering even partial arm and hand function can have an enormous impact on independence and quality of life of an individual. Currently, tendon transfers are the accepted modality for improving hand function. In this procedure, the distal end of a functional muscle is cut and reattached at the insertion site of a nonfunctional muscle. The tendon transfer sacrifices the function at a lesser location to provide function at a more important location. Nerve transfers are conceptually similar to tendon transfers and involve cutting and connecting a healthy but less critical nerve to a more important but paralyzed nerve to restore its function.
Methods: We present a case of a 28-year-old patient with a C5-level ASIA B (international classification level 1) injury who underwent nerve transfers to restore arm and hand function.
Intact peripheral innervation was confirmed in the paralyzed muscle groups corresponding to finger flexors and extensors, wrist flexors and extensors, and triceps bilaterally. Volitional control and good strength were present in the biceps and brachialis muscles, the deltoid, and the trapezius. The patient underwent nerve transfers to restore finger flexion and extension, wrist flexion and extension, and elbow extension. Intraoperative motor-evoked potentials and direct nerve stimulation were used to identify donor and recipient nerve branches.
Results: The patient tolerated the procedure well, with a preserved function in both elbow flexion and shoulder abduction. Conclusions: Nerve transfers are a technically feasible means of restoring the upper extremity function in tetraplegia in cases that may not be amenable to tendon transfers.