Intrinsic balancing in reconstruction of the tetraplegic hand

C. K. McCarthy, J. H. House, A. Van Heest, J. A. Kawiecki, A. Dahl, D. Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


This article reviews 183 hand reconstructions in 135 consecutive tetraplegic patients. Comparisons were made between 103 extrinsic reconstructions with intrinsic balancing procedures and 80 extrinsic reconstructions without intrinsic balancing procedures. Extrinsic reconstructions (tendon transfers and tenodesis in the forearm muscles) were augmented by intrinsic reconstructive procedures (tendon transfers or tenodesis to improve the intrinsic balance of the fingers) in patients exhibiting digital imbalance. Intrinsic procedures included primarily the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) lasso procedure or the intrinsic tenodesis procedure. The patients were stratified by level of spinal cord injury and by type of extrinsic and intrinsic reconstruction. Hands reconstructed with intrinsic balancing versus without intrinsic balancing, as well as intrinsic balancing using a FDS lasso procedure versus an intrinsic tenodesis procedure, were compared with patients with the same level of spinal cord function. Patients who underwent reconstructions with intrinsic balancing had more grip strength, by an average of 13-26 N, than those who did not undergo intrinsic balancing. When different intrinsic procedures were compared, there was improvement in grip strength and function in activities of daily living for all hands, but there was no significant difference between FDS lasso or intrinsic tenodesis procedures. The indications for intrinsic balancing during extrinsic reconstruction are developed into treatment algorithms based on the senior author's surgical experience. The authors recommend that digital intrinsic procedures be included in hand reconstruction for tetraplegic patients exhibiting intrinsic imbalance to help improve digital function and provide increased grip strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-604
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


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