Original research| Volume 97, ISSUE 6, SUPPLEMENT , S88-S96, June 2016

Decision-Making About Upper Limb Tendon Transfer Surgery by People With Tetraplegia for More Than 10 Years



      To quantify time from spinal cord injury to upper limb reconstructive surgery for individuals with tetraplegia; to explore influences on decision-making about surgery for persons with long-standing (>10y) tetraplegia; and to determine the applicability of our previously developed conceptual framework that described the decision-making processes for people with tetraplegia of <5 years.


      Quantitative-qualitative mixed-methods study.


      Community based in New Zealand.


      People (N=9) living with tetraplegia for >10 years.


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      An audit of time frames between injury, assessment, and surgery for people with tetraplegia was undertaken. Interviews of people with tetraplegia were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory.


      Sixty-two percent of people with tetraplegia assessed for surgery had upper limb reconstructive surgery. Most were assessed within the first 3 years of spinal cord injury. Over half had surgery within 4 years after injury; however, 20% waited >10 years. Changes in prioritized activities, and the identification of tasks possible with surgery, were influential in the decision-making process. Participants were aware of surgery, but required a reoffer from health professionals before proceeding. The influence of peers was prominent in reinforcing the improvement in prioritized activities possible after surgery.


      Findings confirmed that the previously developed conceptual framework for decision-making about upper limb reconstructive surgery was applicable for people with tetraplegia of >10 years. Similarities were seen in the influence of goals and priorities (although the nature of these might change) and information from peers (although this influence was greater for those injured longer). Repeat offers for surgery were required to allow for changes in circumstances over time.


      List of abbreviations:

      ADL (activities of daily living), IQR (interquartile range), SCI (spinal cord injury)
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