Voluntary activation of biceps-to-triceps and deltoid-to-triceps transfers in quadriplegia

Carrie L. Peterson, Michael S. Bednar, Anne M. Bryden, Michael W. Keith, Eric J. Perreault, Wendy M. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The biceps or the posterior deltoid can be transferred to improve elbow extension function for many individuals with C5 or C6 quadriplegia. Maximum strength after elbow reconstruction is variable; the patient's ability to voluntarily activate the transferred muscle to extend the elbow may contribute to the variability. We compared voluntary activation during maximum isometric elbow extension following biceps transfer (n = 5) and deltoid transfer (n = 6) in three functional postures. Voluntary activation was computed as the elbow extension moment generated during maximum voluntary effort divided by the moment generated with full activation, which was estimated via electrical stimulation. Voluntary activation was on average 96% after biceps transfer and not affected by posture. Individuals with deltoid transfer demonstrated deficits in voluntary activation, which differed by posture (80% in horizontal plane, 69% in overhead reach, and 70% in weight-relief), suggesting inadequate motor reeducation after deltoid transfer. Overall, individuals with a biceps transfer better activated their transferred muscle than those with a deltoid transfer. This difference in neural control augmented the greater force-generating capacity of the biceps leading to increased elbow extension strength after biceps transfer (average 9.37 N-m across postures) relative to deltoid transfer (average 2.76 N-m across postures) in our study cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0171141
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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