How does the level of spinal cord injury (SCI) affect the degree of respiratory dysfunction?

Updated: Nov 01, 2018
  • Author: Lawrence S Chin, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Brian H Kopell, MD  more...
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Answer

A direct relationship exists between the level of cord injury and the degree of respiratory dysfunction, as follows:

  • With high lesions (ie, C1 or C2), vital capacity is only 5-10% of normal, and cough is absent

  • With lesions at C3 through C6, vital capacity is 20% of normal, and cough is weak and ineffective

  • With high thoracic cord injuries (ie, T2 through T4), vital capacity is 30-50% of normal, and cough is weak

  • With lower cord injuries, respiratory function improves

  • With injuries at T11, respiratory dysfunction is minimal; vital capacity is essentially normal, and cough is strong.


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