Contralateral motor rootlets and ipsilateral nerve transfers in brachial plexus reconstruction

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Object. The goal of this study was to evaluate outcomes in patients with brachial plexus avulsion injuries who underwent contralateral motor rootlet and ipsilateral nerve transfers to reconstruct shoulder abduction/external rotation and elbow flexion.

Methods. Within 6 months after the injury, 24 patients with a mean age of 21 years underwent surgery in which the contralateral C-7 motor rootlet was transferred to the suprascapular nerve by using sural nerve grafts. The biceps motor branch or the musculocutaneous nerve was repaired either by an ulnar nerve fascicular transfer or by transfer of the 11th cranial nerve or the phrenic nerve. The mean recovery in abduction was 90° and 92° in external rotation. In cases of total palsy, only two patients recovered external rotation and in those cases mean external rotation was 70°. Elbow flexion was achieved in all cases. In cases of ulnar nerve transfer, the muscle scores were M5 in one patient, M4 in six patients, and M3+ in five patients. Elbow flexion repair involving the use of the 11th cranial nerve resulted in a score of M3+ in five patients and M4 in two patients. After surgery involving the phrenic nerve, two patients received a score of M3+ and two a score of M4. Results were clearly better in patients with partial lesions and in those who were shorter than 170 cm (p < 0.01). The length of the graft used in motor rootlet transfers affected only the recovery of external rotation. There was no permanent injury at the donor sites.

Conclusions. Motor rootlet transfer represents a reliable and potent neurotizer that allows the reconstruction of abduction and external rotation in partial injuries.

Article Information

Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Jayme A. Bertelli, M.D., Ph.D., Praça Getulio Vargas, 322 Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, 88020030, Brazil. email: bertelli@matrix.com.br.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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