Measurement of isometric elbow and shoulder moments: Position-dependent strength of posterior deltoid-to-triceps muscle tendon transfer in tetraplegia

R. F. Kirsch*, A. M. Acosta, E. J. Perreault, M. W. Keith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This report describes an apparatus which has been developed to measure several isometric elbow and shoulder forces and moments simultaneously and also allows this characterization to be performed across a range of shoulder and elbow joint angles in a horizontal plane. This apparatus was used to characterize the elbow extension strength in individuals with tetraplegia resulting from cervical level spinal cord injury. In all of these individuals, voluntary elbow extension was provided exclusively by the posterior deltoid muscle, which had previously been surgically transferred to the tendon of the paralyzed triceps muscle. Elbow extension is essential for many daily activities, such as reaching above shoulder level and pushing objects away from the body; the widely used posterior deltoid-to-triceps muscle tendon transfer surgery restores some degree of voluntary control to this important function. The apparatus contained a six-axis force-moment transducer to which the arm of each subject was attached. The six outputs of the transducer were transformed to correspond to physiological elbow and shoulder moments and forces. A customized table allowed the shoulder and elbow angles of the subject to be varied over a wide range in a horizontal plane so that the effects of posterior deltoid muscle length could be characterized over the likely functional range of the subject within this plane. It was found that elbow extension strength varied widely across subjects with C5 or C6 tetraplegia, from quite weak to strong enough to propel a manual wheelchair. Furthermore, the elbow extension strength of most subjects showed a strong dependence on both elbow and shoulder angles. Elbow extension was typically weak when the upper arm was elevated to shoulder level at the side, which unfortunately corresponds to the position often adopted by these individuals due to shoulder weakness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-409
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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