J Neuroeng Rehabil, Jun 2021

Properties of the surface electromyogram following traumatic spinal cord injury: a scoping review

Gustavo Balbinot, Guijin Li, Matheus Joner Wiest, Maureen Pakosh, Julio Cesar Furlan, Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan, Jose Zariffa


Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts spinal and supraspinal pathways, and this process is reflected in changes in surface electromyography (sEMG). sEMG is an informative complement to current clinical testing and can capture the residual motor command in great detail—including in muscles below the level of injury with seemingly absent motor activities. In this comprehensive review, we sought to describe how the sEMG properties are changed after SCI. We conducted a systematic literature search followed by a narrative review focusing on sEMG analysis techniques and signal properties post-SCI. We found that early reports were mostly focused on the qualitative analysis of sEMG patterns and evolved to semi-quantitative scores and a more detailed amplitude-based quantification. Nonetheless, recent studies are still constrained to an amplitude-based analysis of the sEMG, and there are opportunities to more broadly characterize the time- and frequency-domain properties of the signal as well as to take fuller advantage of high-density EMG techniques. We recommend the incorporation of a broader range of signal properties into the neurophysiological assessment post-SCI and the development of a greater understanding of the relation between these sEMG properties and underlying physiology. Enhanced sEMG analysis could contribute to a more complete description of the effects of SCI on upper and lower motor neuron function and their interactions, and also assist in understanding the mechanisms of change following neuromodulation or exercise therapy.


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