Diaphragm muscle function following midcervical contusion injury in rats

Obaid U. Khurram, Matthew J. Fogarty, Sabhya Rana, Pangdra Vang, Gary C. Sieck, Carlos B. Mantilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Midcer-vical spinal cord contusion injury results in tissue damage, disruption of spinal pathways, and motor neuron loss. Unilateral C4 contusion results in loss of 40%–50% of phrenic motor neurons ipsilateral to the injury (~25% of the total phrenic motor neuron pool). Over time after unilateral C4 contusion injury, diaphragm muscle (DIAm) electromyogram activity increases both contralateral and ipsilateral to the side of injury in rats, suggesting compensation because of increased activation of the surviving motor neurons. However, the impact of contusion injury on DIAm force generation is less clear. Transdia-phragmatic pressure (Pdi) was measured across motor behaviors over time after unilateral C4 contusion injury in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Maximum Pdi (Pdimax) was elicited by bilateral phrenic nerve stimulation at 7 days postinjury. We hypothesized that Pdimax is reduced following unilateral C4 contusion injury, whereas ventilatory behaviors of the DIAm are unimpaired. In support of our hypothesis, Pdimax was reduced by ~25% after unilateral C4 contusion, consistent with the extent of phrenic motor neuron loss following contusion injury. One day after contusion injury, the Pdi amplitude during airway occlusion was reduced from ~30 to ~20 cmH2O, but this reduction was completely reversed by 7 days postinjury. Ventilatory behaviors (~10 cmH2O), DIAm-specific force, and muscle fiber cross-sectional area did not differ between the laminectomy and contusion groups. These results indicate that the large reserve capacity for DIAm force generation allows for higher-force motor behaviors to be accomplished despite motor neuron loss, likely reflecting changes in motor unit recruitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Breathing
  • Contusion
  • Diaphragm
  • Pdi
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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