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Targeted fascicular biopsy of the sciatic nerve and its major branches: rationale and operative technique

Stepan Capek, Kimberly K. Amrami, P. James B. Dyck, and Robert J. Spinner


Nerve biopsy is typically performed in distal, noncritical sensory nerves without using imaging to target the more involved regions. The yield of these procedures rarely achieves more than 50%. In selected cases where preoperative evaluation points toward a more localized (usually a more proximal) process, targeted biopsy would likely capture the disease. Synthesis of data obtained from clinical examination, electrophysiological testing, and MRI allows biopsy of a portion of the major mixed nerves safely and efficiently. Herein, experiences with the sciatic nerve are reported and a description of the operative technique is provided.


All cases of sciatic nerve biopsy performed between 2000 and 2014 were reviewed. Only cases of fascicular nerve biopsy approached from the buttock or the posterior aspect of the thigh were included. Demographic data, clinical presentation, and the presence of percussion tenderness for each patient were recorded. Reviewed studies included electrodiagnostic tests and imaging. Previous nerve and muscle biopsies were noted. All details of the procedure, final pathology, and its treatment implications were recorded. The complication rate was carefully assessed for temporary as well as permanent complications.


One hundred twelve cases (63 men and 49 women) of sciatic nerve biopsy were performed. Mean patient age was 46.4 years. Seventy-seven (68.8%) patients presented with single lower-extremity symptoms, 16 (14.3%) with bilateral lower-extremity symptoms, and 19 (17%) with generalized symptoms. No patient had normal findings on physical examination. All patients underwent electrodiagnostic studies, the findings of which were abnormal in 110 (98.2%) patients. MRI was available for all patients and was read as pathological in 111 (99.1%). The overall diagnostic yield of biopsy was 84.8% (n = 95). The pathological diagnoses included inflammatory demyelination, perineurioma, nonspecific inflammatory changes, neurolymphomatosis, amyloidosis, prostate cancer, injury neuroma, neuromuscular choristoma, sarcoidosis, vasculitis, hemangiomatosis, arteriovenous malformation, fibrolipomatous hamartoma (lipomatosis of nerve), and cervical adenocarcinoma. The series included 11 (9.9%) temporary and 5 (4.5%) permanent complications: 3 patients (2.7%) reported permanent numbness in the peroneal division distribution, and 2 patients (1.8%) were diagnosed with neuromuscular choristoma that developed desmoid tumor at the biopsy site 3 and 8 years later.


Targeted fascicular biopsy of the sciatic nerve is a safe and efficient diagnostic procedure, and in highly selected cases can be offered as the initial procedure over distal cutaneous nerve biopsy. Diagnoses were very diverse and included entities considered very rare. Even for the more prevalent diagnoses, the biopsy technique allowed a more targeted approach with a higher diagnostic yield and justification for more aggressive treatment. In this series, new radiological patterns of some entities were identified, which could be biopsied less frequently.

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An inferior alveolar intraneural cyst: a case example and an anatomical explanation to support the articular theory within cranial nerves

Stepan Capek, Ioannis G. Koutlas, Rhys P. Strasia, Kimberly K. Amrami, and Robert J. Spinner

The authors describe the case of an intraneural ganglion cyst involving a cranial nerve (V3), which was found to have a joint connection in support of an articular origin within the cranial nerves. An inferior alveolar intraneural cyst was incidentally discovered on a plain radiograph prior to edentulation. It was resected from within the mandibular canal with no joint connection perceived at surgery. Histologically, the cyst was confirmed to be an intraneural ganglion cyst. Reinterpretation of the preoperative CT scan showed the cyst arising from the temporomandibular joint. This case is consistent with the articular (synovial) theory of intraneural ganglion cysts. An anatomical explanation and potential joint connection are provided for this case as well as several other cases of intraneural cysts in the literature, and thus unifying cranial nerve involvement with accepted concepts of intraneural ganglion cyst formation and propagation.

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Perineural spread of malignant melanoma from the mandible to the brachial plexus: case report

Carlos E. Restrepo, Robert J. Spinner, B. Matthew Howe, Mark E. Jentoft, Svetomir N. Markovic, and Daniel H. Lachance

Perineural spread is a well-known mechanism of dissemination of head and neck malignancies. There are few reports of melanoma involving the brachial plexus in the literature. To their knowledge, the authors report the first known case of perineural spread of malignant melanoma to the brachial plexus. Clinicoradiological and anatomopathological correlation is presented, highlighting the importance of peripheral nerve communications in perineural spread.

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Prostate cancer with perineural spread and dural extension causing bilateral lumbosacral plexopathy: case report

Stepan Capek, Benjamin M. Howe, Jennifer A. Tracy, Joaquín J. García, Kimberly K. Amrami, and Robert J. Spinner

Perineural tumor spread in prostate cancer is emerging as a mechanism to explain select cases of neurological dysfunction and as a cause of morbidity and tumor recurrence. Perineural spread has been shown to extend from the prostate bed to the lumbosacral plexus and then distally to the sciatic nerve or proximally to the sacral and lumbar nerves and even intradurally. The authors present a case of a bilateral neoplastic lumbosacral plexopathy that can be explained anatomically as an extension of the same process: from one lumbosacral plexus to the contralateral one utilizing the dural sac as a bridge between the opposite sacral nerve roots. Their theory is supported by sequential progression of symptoms and findings on clinical examinations as well as high-resolution imaging (MRI and PET/CT scans). The neoplastic nature of the process was confirmed by a sciatic nerve fascicular biopsy. The authors believe that transmedian dural spread allows continuity of a neoplastic process from one side of the body to the other.

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Triceps motor branch transfer for isolated traumatic pediatric axillary nerve injuries

Harvey Chim, Michelle F. Kircher, Robert J. Spinner, Allen T. Bishop, and Alexander Y. Shin


Transfer of the triceps motor branch has been used for treatment of isolated axillary nerve palsy in the adult population. However, there are no published data on the effectiveness of this procedure in the pediatric population with traumatic injuries. The authors reviewed demographics and outcomes in their series of pediatric patients who underwent this procedure.


Six patients ranging in age from 10 to 17 years underwent triceps motor branch transfer for the treatment of isolated axillary nerve injuries between 4 and 8 months after the inciting injury. Deltoid muscle strength was evaluated using the modified British Medical Research Council (MRC) grading system. Shoulder abduction at last follow-up was measured.


The mean duration of follow-up was 38 months. The average postoperative MRC grading of deltoid muscle strength was 3.6 ± 1.3. The median MRC grade was 4. One patient who did not achieve an MRC grade of 3 suffered multiple injuries from high-velocity trauma. Unlike in the adult population, age, body mass index of the patient, and delay from injury to surgery were not significant factors affecting the outcome of the procedure.


In the pediatric population with traumatic injuries, isolated axillary nerve injury treated with triceps motor branch transfer can result in good outcomes.

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Traumatic peripheral nerve injuries in children: epidemiology and socioeconomics

Clinical article

Symeon Missios, Kimon Bekelis, and Robert J. Spinner


Despite the negative effects of peripheral nerve injuries (PNIs) on long-term population health, their true prevalence among pediatric trauma patients is under debate. The authors investigated the prevalence of PNIs among children involved in trauma and investigated associations between PNIs and several patient characteristics.


The authors performed a retrospective cohort study of pediatric trauma patients who were registered in the National Trauma Data Bank from 2009 through 2011 and who fulfilled the study inclusion criteria. They used regression techniques to investigate the association of demographic and socioeconomic factors with the rate of PNIs among these patients.


Of the 245,470 study patients, 50,211 were involved in motor vehicle crashes, 3380 in motorcycle crashes, 20,491 in bicycle crashes, 18,262 in pedestrian accidents, 26,294 in other crashes (mainly involving all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles), and 126,832 in falls. The respective prevalence of PNIs was 0.66% for motor vehicle crashes, 1% for motorcycle crashes, 0.38% for bicycle crashes, 0.42% for pedestrian accidents, 0.79% for other crashes, and 0.52% for falls. Multivariate logistic regression analysis demonstrated that the following were associated with an increased incidence of PNIs: increased patient age (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.20), higher Injury Severity Score (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.20), elevated systolic blood pressure at arrival at the emergency room (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.20), and increased number of trauma surgeons at the institution (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.20). The following were associated with lower incidence of PNIs: female sex (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.87–1.02), rural hospitals (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.87–1.02), and urban nonteaching hospitals (OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.87–1.02).


PNIs are more common than previously identified for the pediatric trauma population. These injuries are associated with older age and increased severity of the overall injury.

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Segmental thoracic lipomatosis of nerve with nerve territory overgrowth

Case report

Mark A. Mahan, Kimberly K. Amrami, B. Matthew Howe, and Robert J. Spinner

Lipomatosis of nerve (LN), or fibrolipomatous hamartoma, is a rare condition of fibrofatty enlargement of the peripheral nerves. It is associated with bony and soft tissue overgrowth in approximately one-third to two-thirds of cases. It most commonly affects the median nerve at the carpal tunnel or digital nerves in the hands and feet. The authors describe a patient with previously diagnosed hemihypertrophy of the trunk who had a history of large thoracic lipomas resected during infancy, a thoracic hump due to adipose proliferation within the thoracic paraspinal musculature, and scoliotic deformity. She had fatty infiltration in the thoracic spinal nerves on MRI, identical to findings pathognomonic of LN at better-known sites. Enlargement of the transverse processes at those levels and thickened ribs were also found. This case appears to be directly analogous to other instances of LN with overgrowth, except that this case involved axial nerves rather than the typical appendicular nerves.

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Abstracts of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves Orlando, Florida • March 5–8, 2014

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Misdirection and guidance of regenerating axons after experimental nerve injury and repair

A review

Godard C. W. de Ruiter, Robert J. Spinner, Joost Verhaagen, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

Misdirection of regenerating axons is one of the factors that can explain the limited results often found after nerve injury and repair. In the repair of mixed nerves innervating different distal targets (skin and muscle), misdirection may, for example, lead to motor axons projecting toward skin, and vice versa—that is, sensory axons projecting toward muscle. In the repair of motor nerves innervating different distal targets, misdirection may result in reinnervation of the wrong target muscle, which might function antagonistically. In sensory nerve repair, misdirection might give an increased perceptual territory. After median nerve repair, for example, this might lead to a dysfunctional hand.

Different factors may be involved in the misdirection of regenerating axons, and there may be various mechanisms that can later correct for misdirection. In this review the authors discuss these different factors and mechanisms that act along the pathway of the regenerating axon. The authors review recently developed evaluation methods that can be used to investigate the accuracy of regeneration after nerve injury and repair (including the use of transgenic fluorescent mice, retrograde tracing techniques, and motion analysis). In addition, the authors discuss new strategies that can improve in vivo guidance of regenerating axons (including physical guidance with multichannel nerve tubes and biological guidance accomplished using gene therapy).

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Sciatic nerve lipomatosis and knee osteochondroma

Case illustration

Mark A. Mahan, Kimberly K. Amrami, and Robert J. Spinner