Transfer of supinator motor branches to the posterior interosseous nerve in C7–T1 brachial plexus palsy

Case report

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Object

In C7–T1 palsies of the brachial plexus, shoulder and elbow function are preserved, but finger motion is absent. Finger flexion has been reconstructed by tendon or nerve transfers. Finger extension has been restored ineffectively by attaching the extensor tendons to the distal aspect of the dorsal radius (termed tenodesis) or by tendon transfers. In these palsies, supinator muscle function is preserved, because innervation stems from the C-6 root. The feasibility of transferring supinator branches to the posterior interosseous nerve has been documented in a previous anatomical study. In this paper, the authors report the clinical results of supinator motor nerve transfer to the posterior interosseous nerve in 4 patients with a C7–T1 root lesion.

Methods

Four adult patients with C7–T1 root lesions underwent surgery between 5 and 7 months postinjury. The patients had preserved motion of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, but they had complete palsy of finger motion. They underwent finger flexion reconstruction via transfer of the brachialis muscle, and finger and thumb extension were restored by transferring the supinator motor branches to the posterior interosseous nerve. This nerve transfer was performed through an incision over the proximal third of the radius. Dissection was carried out between the extensor carpi radialis brevis and the extensor digitorum communis. The patients were followed up as per regular protocol and underwent a final evaluation 12 months after surgery. To document the extent of recovery, the authors assessed the degree of active metacarpophalangeal joint extension of the long fingers. The thumb span was evaluated by measuring the distance between the thumb pulp and the lateral aspect of the index finger.

Results

Surgery to transfer the supinator motor branches to the posterior interosseous nerve was straightforward. Twelve months after surgery, all patients were capable of opening their hand and could fully extend their metacarpophalangeal joints. The distance of thumb abduction improved from 0 to 5 cm from the lateral aspect of the index finger.

Conclusions

Transferring supinator motor nerves directly to the posterior interosseous nerve is effective in at least partially restoring thumb and finger extension in patients with lower-type injuries of the brachial plexus.

Abbreviation used in this paper: MCP = metacarpophalangeal.
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Jayme A. Bertelli, M.D., Ph.D., Rua Newton Ramos 70, apto 901, Florianópolis-SC, 88015395, Brazil. email: bertelli@matrix.com.br.Please include this information when citing this paper: published online November 6, 2009; DOI: 10.3171/2009.10.JNS09854.

© Copyright 1944-2019 American Association of Neurological Surgeons

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References
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