The impact of midcervical contusion injury on diaphragm muscle function

Santiago Alvarez-Argote, Heather M. Gransee, Juan C. Mora, Jessica M. Stowe, Amy J. Jorgenson, Gary C. Sieck, Carlos B. Mantilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Midcervical contusion injuries disrupt descending ipsilateral excitatory bulbospinal projections to phrenic motoneurons, compromising ventilation. We hypothesized that a unilateral contusion injury at C3 versus C5 would differentially impact phrenic activity reflecting more prominent disruption of ipsilateral descending excitatory drive to more caudal segments of the phrenic motor pool with more cranial injuries. Phrenic motoneuron counts and evidence of diaphragm muscle denervation at individual neuromuscular junctions (NMJ) were evaluated at 14 days post-injury after unilateral contusion injury (100 kDynes). Whole body plethysmography and chronic diaphragm EMG were measured before the injury and at 3, 7, and 14 days post-injury. Contusion injuries at either level resulted in a similarly sized cavity. C3 contusion resulted in loss of 39 ± 13% of ipsilateral phrenic motoneurons compared with 13 ± 21% after C5 contusion (p = 0.003). Cervical contusion injuries resulted in diaphragm muscle denervation (C3 contusion: 17 ± 4%; C5 contusion: 7 ± 4%; p = 0.047). The pattern of denervation revealed segmental innervation of the diaphragm muscle, with greater denervation ventrally after C3 contusion and dorsally after C5 contusion. Overall, diaphragm root mean square electromyography activity did not change ipsilaterally after C3 or C5 contusion, but increased contralaterally (∼11%) after C3 contusion only on the first day post-injury (p = 0.026). Similarly, there were no significant changes in breathing parameters during eupnea or exposure to hypoxia (10% O2) - hypercapnia (5% CO2) at any time post-injury. Unilateral midcervical contusions minimally impair ventilatory behaviors despite phrenic motoneuron loss and diaphragm muscle denervation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-509
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • level of injury
  • neuromuscular junction
  • phrenic motoneuron
  • spinal cord injury
  • ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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