Retrospective cohort study.
To quantify spontaneous upper extremity motor recovery between 6 and 12 months after spinal cord injury (SCI) to help guide timing of nerve transfer surgery to improve upper limb function in cervical SCI.
Nineteen European SCI rehabilitation centers.
Data was extracted from the European Multicenter Study of SCI database for individuals with mid-level cervical SCI (N = 268). Muscle function grades at 6 and 12 months post-SCI were categorized for analysis.
From 6 to 12 months after SCI, spontaneous surgically-relevant recovery was limited. Of all limbs (N = 263) with grade 0-2 elbow extension at 6 months, 4% regained grade 4-5 and 11% regained grade 3 muscle function at 12 months. Of all limbs (N = 380) with grade 0-2 finger flexion at 6 months, 3% regained grade 4-5 and 5% regained grade 3 muscle function at 12 months.
This information supports early (6 month) post-injury surgical consultation and evaluation. With this information, individuals with SCI can more fully engage in preference-based decision-making about surgical intervention versus continued rehabilitation and spontaneous recovery to gain elbow extension and/or hand opening and closing.