Critical Care Trauma Centre

Question of the Week: June 16, 2000

What function would you expect to find in a
     patient with a complete cord injury where function to C7 is intact?


The nerve root of C7 runs between vertebrae C7 and C6.  Nerve function at C7 includes:

Motor Function
extensor digitorium
triceps, full shoulder musculature including scapula
  • full shoulder movement (rotation, adduction and abduction) and strong scapular stability
  • elbow extension - tricep (ability to straighten bent arm)
  • strong wrist extension
  • moderate grasp (extensor digitorium muscle permits extension of digits, some finger flexor muscle intact)
  • trunk stability and respiratory reserve remain poor



  • Note C6 provides ability to flex elbow (bicep)
Sensory Function
  • sensation to middle finger 
  • C6 responsible for thumb (radial nerve) and first finger (median nerve) sensation

Expected level of Function

  • feeding and grooming
  • independent transfers
  • able to sit up and roll over in bed
  • can dress self
  • may drive car with hand controls


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 16, 2000

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