Question of the Week: May 26, 2000

What function would you expect to find in a
     patient with a complete cord injury where function to C6 is intact?


The nerve root of C6 runs between vertebrae C6 and C5.  Nerve function at C6 includes:

Motor Function
biceps, brachioradialis,  partial pectoralis
extensor carpi radialis, rotator cuff, partial latissimus
  • strong bicep muscles (strong elbow flexion)
  • weak wrist extension
  • tenodesis (ability to passively flex fingers with wrist extension)
  • shoulder rotation, adduction and abduction (move arm towards and away from body at shoulder)
Sensory Function
  • sensation for C6 includes thumb side of lower forearm
  • thumb (radial nerve) and first finger (median nerve)

Expected level of Function

  • feeding and grooming
  • able to use assisted devices to grasp objects
  • can roll over and maneuver in bed
  • may drive car with hand controls
  • may be able to transfer


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
May 26, 2000

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