Multicenter survey of the effects of rehabilitation practices on pinch force strength after tendon transfer to restore pinch in tetraplegia

M. Elise Johanson*, Jeffrey P. Jaramillo, Christine A. Dairaghi, Wendy M. Murray, Vincent R. Hentz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective To identify key components of conventional therapy after brachioradialis (BR) to flexor pollicis longus (FPL) transfer, a common procedure to restore pinch strength, and evaluate whether any of the key components of therapy were associated with pinch strength outcomes. Design Rehabilitation protocols were surveyed in 7 spinal cord injury (SCI) centers after BR to FPL tendon transfer. Key components of therapy, including duration of immobilization, participation, and date of initiating therapy activities (mobilization, strengthening, muscle reeducation, functional activities, and home exercise), were recorded by the patient's therapist. Pinch outcomes were recorded with identical equipment at 1-year follow-up. Setting Seven SCI rehabilitation centers where the BR to FPL surgery is performed on a routine basis. Participants Thirty-eight arms from individuals with C5-7 level SCI injury who underwent BR to FPL transfer surgery (N=34). Intervention Conventional therapy according to established protocol in each center. Main Outcome Measures The frequency of specific activities and their time of initiation (relative to surgery) were expressed as means and 95% confidence intervals. Outcome measures included pinch strength and the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). Spearman rank-order correlations determined significant relations between pinch strength and components of therapy. Results There was similarity in the key components of therapy and in the progression of activities. Early cast removal was associated with pinch force (Spearman ρ=-.40, P=.0269). Pinch force was associated with improved COPM performance (Spearman ρ=.48, P=.0048) and satisfaction (Spearman ρ=.45, P=.0083) scores. Conclusions Initiating therapy early after surgery is beneficial after BR to FPL surgery. Postoperative therapy protocols have the potential to significantly influence the outcome of tendon transfers after tetraplegia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S105-S116
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Multicenter study
  • Pinch strength
  • Quadriplegia
  • Reconstructive surgical procedures
  • Rehabilitation
  • Tendon transfer
  • Upper extremity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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