Human Anatomy and Physiology : Help with Nervous System Injuries and Disorders

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Human Anatomy and Physiology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

Loss of which nerve function would diminish the ability to supinate the hand and forearm?

Possible Answers:

Ulnar nerve

Radial nerve

Median nerve

Axillary nerve

Correct answer:

Radial nerve

Explanation:

The supinator muscle is innervated by the radial nerve and functions to supinate the forearm. The biceps brachii muscle also helps supinate the forearm and is innervated by the musculocutaneous nerve.

The median nerve and ulnar nerve mostly serve to innervate the muscle of the hand and wrist. The axillary nerve innervates the teres minor and deltoid.

Example Question #1 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A football player is found to have damaged is anterior interosseous nerve (branch of the median nerve). Which of the following hand motions will he be unable to perform?

Possible Answers:

"OK" sign

Thumbs up

Form an L with his thumb and ring finger

Peace sign

Correct answer:

"OK" sign

Explanation:

The anterior interosseous nerve (AIN) is a motor branch of the median nerve that innervates the flexor pollicus longus, pronator quadratus, and the radial half of flexor digitorum profundus. Injury to the AIN results in weakness of the pincer function of the thumb and index fingers. When asked to make an "OK sign, people with an AIN injury make a triangle instead.

Example Question #2 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 23-year old man was involved in a high-speed motor vehicle accident and presents with an open fracture of the right mid-shaft humerus. In the trauma bay he complains of numbness in the dorsum of his right hand. He is taken immediately to the operating room where an intramedullary rod was placed. There were no complications during surgery. Five days after the surgery, the man still complains of numbness in the dorsum of his right hand and is also unable to extend his right elbow.

What other abnormality do you expect to see in this patient?

Possible Answers:

Anterior interosseous nerve syndrome

Erb-Duchenne palsy

Claw hand

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Wrist drop

Correct answer:

Wrist drop

Explanation:

You would expect this patient to exhibit wrist drop.

This is a multi-step thinking question that gives you many clues as to what might be wrong in the patient. First, let's sort out the facts that we are given:

1. The patient has a break in the middle of his right humerus.

2. Patient has numbness on the dorsal surface of his ipsilateral (same side) hand.

3. Patient is unable to extend (straighten) his elbow.

Now let's ask ourselves some questions about these facts:

1. What is the anatomy of the humerus, specifically in the mid-shaft? (hint: what "groove" is located there?)

2. What nerve provides sensation to the dorsum of the hand?

3. What muscles extend the elbow and what nerve innervates those muscles?

The spiral groove is located in the middle of the humerus, which is where the radial nerve wraps around the bone. The radial nerve supplies sensation to the dorsum of the hand. The triceps brachii are responsible for straightening the elbow and are innervated by the radial nerve. Fomr the given information, we know the radial nerve is likely injured, but we need to figure out what else could be impacted by this deficit. The radial nerve innervates the extensor muscles of the forearm, allowing one to extend at the wrist. If these muscles were to be deficient, as exhibited in a radial nerve injury, one would expect the wrist to not be able to extend, and thus manifest as wrist drop.

Let's touch on the other answer choices for further learning:

Claw hand is seen in ulnar nerve injury such as Klumpke's paralysis and manifests as a weakness/inability to flex the wrist (flexor carpi ulnaris), the metacarpophalagneal joints of the 4th and 5th digits in extension (interosseous muscles), and interphalagneal joints of the 4th and 5th digits in flexion (also interossei and lumbricals).

Erb-Duchenne Palsy or Erb's Palsy is an injury to the upper trunk of the brachial plexus that occurs when the head is violently displaced from the shoulder as happens in a difficult breech delivery or trauma.  This will involve the suprascapular, musculocutaneous, and often axillary nerves. Patients present with the arm adducted (deltoid muscle deficient), elbow extended (biceps brachii deficient), and forearm pronated (also biceps brachii). This is referred to as the "waiter's tip" position.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is entrapment of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel (beneath the transverse carpal ligament). Patients present with numbness and tingling in the palm of the hand as well as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and half of the 4th digits. There may be atrophy of the thenar eminence, as well as weakness in thumb opposition. Symptoms are worse at night.

Anterior interosseous nerve (AIN) syndrome is a rare median nerve entrapment that will manifest similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, but is distinguished by its presentation of only motor symptoms and lack of nighttime symptoms.

Example Question #4 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

While carrying a pot of food to the dinner table, you accidentally bump your elbow against a counter in the kitchen and immediately feel pain shoot down your forearm to your ring finger and pinky. Recalling your anatomy, which nerve did you compress and where did you irritate it?

Possible Answers:

Median nerve by the pronator teres

Median nerve at the bicipital aponeurosis

Radial nerve by the extensor carpi radialis brevis

Ulnar nerve at the condylar groove

Ulnar nerve within Guyon’s canal

Correct answer:

Ulnar nerve at the condylar groove

Explanation:

The ulnar nerve was compressed at the condylar groove. This common phenomenon is often referred to as the "funny bone". The ulnar nerve provides sensory innervation to half of the 4th digit and the entire 5th digit, as well as the medial aspect of the hand.

The ulnar nerve arises from the lower trunk of the brachial plexus, from spinal roots C8 and T1. It travels medially in the arm in the medial cord and courses posteriorly around the medial epicondyle of the elbow in an indentation known as the condylar groove. This is the spot that you hit when you hit your "funny bone."

Other common places of ulnar nerve entrapment are at the cubital tunnel of the elbow or the ulnar tunnel (Guyon's canal) of the wrist. Compression of the radial nerve by the extensor carpi radialis brevis leads to posterior interosseous nerve (PIN) syndrome. The median nerve is commonly compressed at the bicipital aponeurosis and the pronator teres to give pronator syndrome.

Example Question #5 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 22-year old man with a history of a supracondylar fracture of the left humerus 15 years ago presents with numbness and weakness in the medial aspect of his left palm, as well as his pinky and ring finger, for the past two weeks. On physical exam there was decreased sensation in his left pinky and ring finger as well as atrophy of his hypothenar eminence.

What is the most likely cause of his current condition?

Possible Answers:

Klumpke’s paralysis

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome

Tardy ulnar nerve palsy

Posterior Interossesous Nerve (PIN) syndrome

Correct answer:

Tardy ulnar nerve palsy

Explanation:

This man is suffering from tardy ulnar nerve palsy as a result of cubitus varus.

We are told that the patient has numbness and weakness in his medial hand and 4th and 5th digits; this area is innervated by branches of the ulnar nerve. Commonly seen in these patients are also atrophy of the hypothenar region, as those muscles are also innervated by the ulnar nerve.

Tardy ulnar nerve palsy is a condition in which the ulnar nerve is irritated as a result of cubitus varus of the distal humerus. This condition develops after a child suffers a supracondylar fracture of the humerus with healing resulting in deformity, especially of the medial epicondyle where the ulnar nerve runs.

Incorrect choices:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is entrapment of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel (beneath the transverse carpal ligament). Patients present with numbness and tingling in the palm of the hand as well as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and half of the 4th digits. There may be atrophy of the thenar eminence as well as weakness in thumb opposition. Symptoms are worse at night.

Klumpke's paralysis is a result of injury to the lower trunk of the brachial plexus, or the spinal roots C8 and T1. The classic manifestation is the claw hand, characterized by weakness/inability to flex the wrist (flexor carpi ulnaris), the metacarpophalagneal joints of the 4th and 5th digits in extension (interosseous muscles), and interphalagneal joints of the 4th and 5th digits in flexion (also interossei and lumbricals).

Posterior interossesous nerve (PIN) syndrome is compression of a branch of the radial nerve in the radial tunnel resulting in weakened extension of the hand and wrist.

Thoracic outlet syndrome is caused by an abnormal insertion of the anterior and middle scalene muscles and the cervical rib attached to C7 that causes nerve and vascular compression. There are a wide range of symptoms and may cause vascular issues as well.

 

Example Question #6 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 24-year old gang leader presents the trauma bay in stable condition with a knife wound to his right shoulder after a fight. After assuring that he only suffered that single wound, you proceed to test his right upper extremity. You find that he is unable to abduct or extend his shoulder, and he is also unable to extend his elbow; however, he has full strength in flexing his shoulder and elbow.

You figure that the knife must have cut a part of the brachial plexus. What part has been injured?

Possible Answers:

C8 and T1

Upper trunk

Anterior division

Posterior cord

Median nerve

Correct answer:

Posterior cord

Explanation:

The knife probably hit the posterior cord of the brachial plexus.

To answer this question we need to think about what deficits are exhibited by the patient:

1. Inability to abduct the shoulder

2. Inability to extend the shoulder

3. Inability to extend the elbow

Let's think about what nerves are deficient:

1. The axillary nerve supplies the deltoid muscle, which function to abduct the shoulder.

2. The latissimus dorsi extends the shoulder and is supplied by the thoracodorsal nerve.

3. Elbow extension is accomplished by the triceps brachii, which is innervated by the radial nerve.

So we know the axillary, thoracodorsal, and radial nerves are deficient. These three nerves all arise from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus, however they also receive innervation from the upper trunk of the brachial plexus. We know that the patient is able to fully flex the shoulder and elbow, which is accomplished by the coracobrachialis and biceps brachii, respectively. These two muscles are both innervated by the musculocutaneous nerve. Because the musculocutaneous nerve is intact, we know the upper trunk of the brachial plexus has not been affected, and that the knife must have pierced the posterior cord.

C8 and T1 supply the lower trunk of the brachial plexus, which gives rise to the ulnar nerve. The anterior divisions supply the medial and lateral cords of the brachial plexus. The median nerve is supplied by the medial and lateral cords of the brachial plexus and innervates the functions of wrist and hand flexion.

Example Question #7 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

The phrenic nerve originates in the neck and innervates the diaphragm for breathing. Oftentimes when the diaphragm is irritated, pain is felt in a different body part that is served by the same spinal nerves, known as “referred pain”. A 72-year old nursing home resident is found to have an abscess below his right diaphragm, but complains of pain somewhere else. Where do you expect his pain most likely to be?

Possible Answers:

Right shoulder

Right hand

Left axilla

Left forearm

Right nipple area

Correct answer:

Right shoulder

Explanation:

Irritation of the phrenic nerve can result in referred pain to the ipsilateral shoulder. In this case, since the abscess irritates the right disphragm, the patient will have pain in his right shoulder.

The phrenic nerve is supplied by C3, C4, and C5 and innervates the diaphragm for breathing purposes (C3, 4, 5 keep the diaphragm alive). Thinking back to sensory innervation of the shoulder, we know that the suprascapular nerve (C3, C4) and axillary nerve (C5, C6) supply the shoulder area. Specifically, the referred pain to the ipsilateral shoulder from phrenic nerve injury/irritation is known as "Kehr's Sign".

Example Question #3 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 27-year old male comes to a clinic complaining that he has difficulty climbing stairs and getting up from a sitting position. He recently recovered from a bout of diarrhea and then noticed that his feet were weak and that he was having trouble walking. What is responsible for this man’s condition?

Possible Answers:

Demyelination

Blockade of action potentials

Blockade of postsynaptic ACh receptors

Blockade of presynaptic voltage-gated calcium channels

Inhibition of ACh release into synaptic cleft

Correct answer:

Demyelination

Explanation:

This man is suffering from acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), also known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. As suggested by the name, the pathology is due to demyelination.

AIDP is a symmetric ascending paralysis that begins in the feet and ascends to the trunk and upper extremities. The paralysis will often impair breathing and frequently affects the facial nerve as well. This disease commonly follows an illness, especially infectious diarrhea caused by Campylobacter jejuni. The immune response to foreign antigens mistakenly targets host nerve tissues, specifically the myelin sheaths.

Inhibition of ACh release into synaptic cleft can also result in weakness, but describes the effects of botulinum toxin in botulism. The toxin is made by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum as a foodborne illness. Patients experience weakness, trouble seeing, fatigue, and possible speech difficulties. Muscular weakness may follow. Diagnosis is made by identifying the toxin in food or feces.

Blockade of action potentials is seen in conduction blockages as a result of nerve injury, such as neuropraxia, axonotmesis, or neurotmesis.

Blockade of presynaptic voltage-gated calcium channels describes Lambert-Eaton Syndrome, a presynaptic neuromuscular junction disorder characterized by muscular weakness of the limbs. It is an autoimmune condition that attacks presynaptic voltage-gated calcium channels. Proximal muscles are affected first, so patients have difficulty climbing stairs or standing up from sitting. They also may have difficulty reaching over their head or combing their hair. Diagnosis is made by EMG, which shows normal latency and conduction velocities, but small amplitudes. Rapid bursts of stimuli or exercising the muscle will lead to greatly increased amplitudes due to an influx of calcium.

Blockade of postsynaptic ACh receptors is seen in myasthenia gravis, a postsynaptic neuromuscular junction disorder very similar to Lambert-Eaton Syndrome. It is an autoimmune disorder directed against postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors and is characterized by easy fatigue. Muscles become progressively weaker with activity, so patients tend to have symptoms at the end of the day. Earliest signs include difficulty keeping the eyes open, or difficulty with chewing, speaking, or swallowing. EMG studies will show progressively decreasing amplitudes with repeated stimuli.

Example Question #9 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 50-year old secretary comes to you complaining that she feels weak and tired at the end of the day. She says she has difficulty driving home from work because she can’t keep her eyes open. What do you expect to see on her EMG with repeated stimulations?

Possible Answers:

Increasing velocity

Decreasing frequency

Decreasing amplitude

Fibrillations

Increasing amplitude

Correct answer:

Decreasing amplitude

Explanation:

You would expect decreasing amplitude with repeated stimulation.

This woman is suffering from myasthenia gravis, a postsynaptic neuromuscular junction disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder directed against postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors and is characterized by easy fatigue. Muscles become progressively weaker with activity, so patients tend to have symptoms at the end of the day. Earliest signs include difficulty keeping the eyes open, or difficulty with chewing, speaking, or swallowing.

Increasing amplitude would be seen in Lambert-Eaton Syndrome, a presynaptic neuromuscular junction disorder characterized by muscular weakness in the limbs. It is an autoimmune condition that attacks presynaptic voltage-gated calcium channels. Proximal muscles are affected first and patients have difficulty climbing stairs or standing up from sitting. They also may have difficulty reaching over their head or combing their hair. Rapid burst of stimuli or exercising the muscle will lead to greatly increased amplitudes due to an influx of calcium.

Fibrillations are seen with axonal injury.

Example Question #4 : Help With Nervous System Injuries And Disorders

A 57-year old woman comes to a clinic complaining that she cannot feel anything in her shoulders and arms. When asked to explain herself, she mentions that she can’t tell when something is hot and has burned her fingers on the stove a few times over the past few weeks. T1 MRI of the cervical spine shows radiodensity in the spinal cord. If left untreated, what would you expect to see on physical exam after disease progression?

Possible Answers:

Clonus

Hypotonia

Hyperreflexia

Loss of vibration and proprioception

Clasp-knife spasticity

Correct answer:

Hypotonia

Explanation:

Left untreated, you can expect the patient to develop hypotonia.

First, let's diagnose the patient. She complains of symmetric lack of feeling in her upper extremities, specifically inability to distinguish temperature. This is a classic description of syringomyelia, a pathology in which a cyst or cavity forms within the center of the cervical spinal cord. This disrupts the anterior white commissure and crossing spinothalamic tracts, leading to loss of pain and temperature sensation in the upper back, upper chest, and upper extremities.

Cavitation will appear as a "density" or darkness on T1 MRI. Left untreated, cavitation or cysts may extend to involve the anterior horn, which will result in a lower motor neuron disease. Lower motor neuron disease is characterized by hypotonia (low muscle tone), muscle atrophy, flaccid paralysis, areflexia, fasciculations, and fibrillations on EMG.

Clonus is involuntary, rhythmic movements of a muscle group that is seen in upper motor neuron (UMN) disease. Clasp-knife spasticity is also seen in UMN disease and is described as initial resistance to passive flexion of a joint, followed by a sudden decrease in resistance. Also seen in UMN disease is hyperreflexia, spastic paralysis, and Babinski sign—fanning out of the toes after stroking the bottom of the foot. Loss of vibration and proprioception is seen with involvement of the dorsal column of the spinal cord.

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