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Weakness and spasticity of chest wall muscles are known to adversely affect pulmonary function in spinal cord-injured patients. To test the assertion that impaired strength and increased tone contribute to ventilation deficits, 52 patients with recent acute traumatic cervical and high thoracic spinal cord injury underwent complete pulmonary function testing. Regression analyses were performed to determine relationships between spinal cord injury level and pulmonary function test results and between Ashworth scale tone ratings and pulmonary function test results. Level of injury was found to be significantly correlated with expiratory reserve volume (and percent predicted expiratory reserve volume), residual volume/total lung capacity ratio, and negative inspiratory pressure but not with vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in one second, forced expiratory volume in one second/vital capacity ratio, inspiratory capacity, total lung capacity, functional residual capacity, residual volume, or positive expiratory pressure. There were significant correlations between Ashworth Scale tone ratings and negative inspiratory pressure but not between tone ratings and any of the other pulmonary function test results. It appears that muscle strength may be a more important factor than muscle tone in determining pulmonary function in spinal cord-injured patients and that both strength and tone are closely related to negative inspiratory pressure.