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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2019 Jan 1;126(1):221-230. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00481.2018. Epub 2018 Sep 20.

Diaphragm muscle function following midcervical contusion injury in rats.

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Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic , Rochester, Minnesota.
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland , St. Lucia, QLD , Australia.
Department of Neurobiology of Disease, Mayo Clinic , Rochester, Minnesota.
Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Mayo Clinic , Rochester, Minnesota.


Midcervical 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. Transdiaphragmatic 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. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Respiratory muscles such as the diaphragm generate the pressures necessary to accomplish a variety of motor behaviors ranging from ventilation to near-maximal expulsive behaviors. However, the impact of contusion injury on diaphragm pressure generation across behaviors is not clear. The present study shows that contusion injury impairs maximal pressure generation while preserving the ability of the diaphragm to accomplish lower-force motor behaviors, likely reflecting changes in diaphragm motor unit recruitment.


Pdi; breathing; contusion; diaphragm; spinal cord injury

[Available on 2020-01-01]

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