Thumb force deficit after lower median nerve block

Zong Ming Li, Daniel A. Harkness, Robert J. Goitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to characterize thumb motor dysfunction resulting from simulated lower median nerve lesions at the wrist. Methods: Bupivacaine hydrochloride was injected into the carpal tunnel of six healthy subjects to locally anesthetize the median nerve. Motor function was subsequently evaluated by measuring maximal force production in all directions within the transverse plane perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the thumb. Force envelopes were constructed using these measured multidirectional forces. Results: Blockage of the median nerve resulted in decreased force magnitudes and thus smaller force envelopes. The average force decrease around the force envelope was 27.9%. A maximum decrease of 42.4% occurred in a direction combining abduction and slight flexion, while a minimum decrease of 10.5% occurred in a direction combining adduction and slight flexion. Relative decreases in adduction, extension, abduction, and flexion were 17.3%, 21.2%, 41.2% and 33.5%, respectively. Areas enclosed by pre- and post-block force envelopes were 20628 ± 7747 N.N, and 10700 ± 4474 N.N, respectively, representing an average decrease of 48.1%. Relative decreases in the adduction, extension, abduction, and flexion quadrant areas were 31.5%, 42.3%, 60.9%, and 52.3%, respectively. Conclusion: Lower median nerve lesion, simulated by a nerve block at the wrist, compromise normal motor function of the thumb. A median nerve block results in force deficits in all directions, with the most severe impairment in abduction and flexion. From our results, such a means of motor function assessment can potentially be applied to functionally evaluate peripheral neuropathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
StatePublished - Oct 19 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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