EXPIRATORY FUNCTION IN COMPLETE TETRAPLEGICS: Study of Spirometry, Maximal Expiratory Pressure, and Muscle Activity of Pectoralis Major and Latissimus Dorsi Muscles1

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Respiratory complications, such as pneumonia and atelectasis, are major causes of mortality and inhibit rehabilitation programs in spinal cord injury. Tetraplegic patients cannot cough enough to clear their sputum because of expiratory muscle weakness, mainly of the abdominal muscles. However, tetraplegics are still able to activate some muscles during coughing. Some tetraplegics, even though they cannot contract the abdominal muscles, can cough effectively. It was supposed that some accessory expiratory muscles were activated during coughing in tetraplegics. We, therefore, studied the peak expiratory flow rate, expiratory muscle strength, and the activities of the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles in 11 complete tetraplegics. Peak expiratory flow rate was measured by spirometry. Expiratory muscles strength was assessed by maximal expiratory mouth pressure; muscle activity was assessed by means of the root mean square voltage obtained by surface electromyography. The results showed that peak expiratory flow rate, maximal expiratory mouth pressure, and root mean square of these two muscles were correlated with neurological level. Peak expiratory flow rate was correlated with peak expiratory flow rate. Peak expiratory flow rate was correlated with the root mean square voltage of the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles. It was supposed that these two muscles were activated as accessory expiratory muscles and play an important role in expiratory function in tetraplegic patients.

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