Spinal cord injuries are usually a result of car crashes, motorcycle accidents, and sports related injuries and the lasting effects can be life altering for the injured. Some of the post accident side effects can include respiratory problems, spasms, urinary tract infections, and permanent curvature in the spine. The resulting damage of spinal cord trauma is usually numbness and/or paralysis. The vertebrate number has everything to do with the location and severity of the injury that follows spinal cord trauma. In some severe injury cases can result in a condition known as tetraplegia. Tetraplegia causes little or no sensation in a person’s hands or legs. There are some procedures that are being practiced that in some cases can restore hand function after a spinal cord injury, but as with any kind of surgery there are risks and varying levels of success and realistic outcomes.


Tetraplegia is when a victim has lost feeling and use of both arms and legs, as a result of permanent spinal cord damage as a result of traumatic events like car accident injuries.  The area of the spinal cord that was damaged and will determine what motor functions a person may or may not still have after an injured, so there are varying degrees of tetraplegia which depend on which part of the spinal cord has been effected. The lower down, on the spinal column, the injury is located, the more movement and functionality a person will have. Any type of spinal cord injury will change a person’s life forever, making them require the assistance of another for at least some of their daily living activities.

Tendon Transfers

Tendons are the tissues that are responsible for connecting tissue to bone structures. Contracting muscles cause the tendons to move the bone closer. In the event that a tendon tears moving a finger may become a futile proposition. There is a procedure called a tendon transfer, which may help to restore lost hand function after a serious injury.

During this procedure the tendons of a working muscle are used to replace the function of a paralyzed function allowing the injured area the ability to work , to a degree, as it once did. A tendon transfer can help restore the ability to straighten and bend the elbow, bend and straighten the wrist and the ability to grip using the hand.

A tendon transfer will not usually be performed until at least a year following and injury. Rehabilitation is the first step of post-injury recovery which will focus on retaining and expanding the current range of motion. if a patient ceases to progress in regaining muscle function a tendon transfer may be considered.

Before a tendon transfer can occur certain factors must be considered.

Are the working muscles functioning well enough to be used in a transfer?

Which specific functions require restoration?

Will a joint fusion or electronic implant be needed to restore function?

Is there a commitment to rehabilitation from the patient as well as a support system in place for post-surgery care?

And of course common post surgery risk considerations like infection, complications from the anesthesia, and the timing in which the physical therapy can begin post surgery.

Elbow Extensions

Frequently Elbow extension will be the first surgery performed due to it’s large contribution to personal independence. Elbow extension is a surgery which has been developed for the purpose of restoring lost movement in the elbow region. This surgery usually involves a section of the deltoid muscle using a graft from a leg muscle. In some cases the bicep may be used instead. Post surgery the arm will be immobilized and kept in a brace. Due to the complete immobilization of an arm post surgery, elbow extensions are done one arm at a time. The results from this kind if surgery can be very impressive.

Key Pinch

Key pinch is another surgery that is performed in an effort to restore some vital gripping and pinching abilities to a patient who suffered from tetraplegia.   This would allow a person to grasp a spoon or perhaps, a remote control. This surgery frequently uses forearm muscles which are grafted to the tendons which move the thumb and wrist.

Electronic Implants

Electronic implants are a relatively new option for patients with no hand usage who are also poor candidates for a tendon transfer.  These devices are used to stimulate muscles sort of like a pace maker. Electrodes are attached to functioning muscles in the hand and arm, which are then connected to a control panel placed within the chest. The electrical signals come from a unit outside of the body and can improve key pinch and grasp

Common Results

Tendon transfers usually have a high outcome of success in restoring hand and partial arm mobility. Elbow extension surgeries are also highly successful in allowing the injured to extend and bend the elbow. Improving the key pinch function of the hand is remarkably successful as well. Despite their high success rates these surgeries can be extremely costly, therefore a spinal cord injury lawyer should consider these potential future expenses if financial compensation is being sought. Post operational risks will always include infection and damage from trying to move too soon or too late. Despite the risks and expenses, restoring hand and lower arm function in someone who has been rendered paralyzed, can increase the quality of their life many times over.  Additional resources for restoring hand function: