Lower-Extremity Muscle Cross-Sectional Area After Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Prithvi K. Shah, Jennifer E. Stevens, Chris M. Gregory, Neeti C. Pathare, Arun Jayaraman, Scott C. Bickel, Mark Bowden, Andrea L. Behrman, Glenn A. Walter, Gary A. Dudley, Krista Vandenborne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Shah PK, Stevens JE, Gregory CM, Pathare NC, Jayaraman A, Bickel SC, Bowden M, Behrman AL, Walter GA, Dudley GA, Vandenborne K. Lower-extremity muscle cross-sectional area after incomplete spinal cord injury. Objectives: (1) To quantify skeletal muscle size in lower-extremity muscles of people after incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI), (2) to assess differences in muscle size between involved lower limbs, (3) to determine the impact of ambulatory status (using wheelchair for community mobility vs not using a wheelchair for community mobility) on muscle size after incomplete SCI, and (4) to determine if differential atrophy occurs among individual muscles after incomplete SCI. Design: Case-control study. Setting: University research setting. Participants: Seventeen people with incomplete SCI and 17 age-, sex-, weight-, and height-matched noninjured controls. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Maximum cross-sectional area (CSA) of individual lower-extremity muscles (soleus, medial gastrocnemius, lateral gastrocnemius, tibialis anterior, quadriceps femoris, hamstrings) as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging. Results: Overall, subjects with incomplete SCI had significantly smaller (24%-31%) average muscle CSA in affected lower-extremity muscles as compared with control subjects (P<.05). Mean differences were highest in the thigh muscles (≈31%) compared with the lower-leg muscles (≈25%). No differences were noted between the self-reported more- and less-involved limbs within the incomplete SCI group. Dichotomizing the incomplete SCI group showed significantly lower muscle CSA values in both the wheelchair (range, 21%-39%) and nonwheelchair groups (range, 24%-38%). In addition, the wheelchair group exhibited significantly greater plantarflexor muscle atrophy compared with the dorsiflexors, with maximum atrophy in the medial gastrocnemius muscle (39%). Conclusions: Our results suggest marked and differential atrophic response of the affected lower-extremity muscles that is seemingly affected by ambulatory status in people with incomplete SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-778
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Atrophy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Muscle
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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