Discrepancies between clinical assessments of sensory function and electrical perceptual thresholds after incomplete chronic cervical spinal cord injury

R. A. Macklin, V. J. Brooke, F. J. Calabro, P. H. Ellaway, Monica Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Study design:Prospective experimental.Objectives:To compare sensory function as revealed by light touch and pin prick tests of the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) and the electrical perceptual threshold (EPT) exams in individuals with chronic incomplete cervical spinal cord injury (SCI).Setting:Pittsburgh, United States.Methods:EPT was tested using cutaneous electrical stimulation (0.5 ms pulse width, 3 Hz) in 32 healthy controls and in 17 participants with SCI over key points on dermatomes C2 to T4 on each side of the body. Light touch and pin prick ISNCSCI scores were tested at the same key dermatomes in SCI participants.Results:In controls, EPT values were higher in older males (1.26±0.2 mA, mean±s.d.) compared with younger males (1.0±0.2 mA) and older females (0.9±0.2 mA), regardless of the dermatome and side tested. Fifteen out of the seventeen SCI participants showed that the level of sensory impairment detected by the EPT was below the level detected by the ISNCSCI (mean=4.5±2.4, range 1-9). The frequency distribution of EPTs was similar to older male controls in dermatomes above but not below the ISNCSCI sensory level. The difference between EPT and ISNCSCI sensory level was negatively correlated with the time post injury.Conclusions:The results show that, in the chronic stage of cervical SCI, the EPT reveals spared sensory function at lower (∼5) spinal segments compared with the ISNCSCI sensory exam. It is hence found that the EPT is a sensitive tool to assess recovery of sensory function after chronic SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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