Critical Care Trauma Centre

Question of the Week: June 9, 2000

What function would you expect to find in a
     patient with a complete cord injury where function to C3 is intact?


The nerve root of C3 runs between vertebrae C2 and C3.  Nerve function at C3 includes:

Motor Function
sternocleidomastoid muscle, weak trapezius may be present

sternocleidomastoid muscle, weak trapezius may be present

  • weak diaphragm, usually unable to sustain ventilation
  • weak neck movement (sternocleidomastoid present, weak trapezius)
Sensory Function
  • sensation for C3 lower neck 

Expected level of Function

  • swallowing
  • speaking
  • usually ventilator dependent


Barr, M, and Kiernan, J. (1993). The Human Nervous System: An Anatomical Viewpoint. Philadelphia: Lippincott. pp 84-85.

Keppler, J. (1987). Acute spinal cord injury. Critical Care Clinics. July. 3:3. pp. 638-641.

Netter, F. (1989). Atlas of Human Anatomy. New Jersey: Novartis.

Waxman, S. (1996). Correlative Neuroanatomy. 23rd Ed.  Stamford: Lange. pp 46-52, 352-355, 370.

Brenda Morgan
Clinical Educator, CCTC
June 9, 2000

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