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Nerve transfers in a patient with asymmetrical neurological deficit following traumatic cervical spinal cord injury: simultaneous bilateral restoration of pinch grip and elbow extension. Illustrative case

Alexander A. Gatskiy, Ihor B. Tretyak, Vitaliy I. Tsymbaliuk, and Yaroslav V. Tsymbaliuk

BACKGROUND

Cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) causes severe motor deficit in upper extremities. The mixed segmental CSCI pattern is reflected in the combination of time-sensitive (TS) and non-TS myotomes in the upper extremities. Nerve transfers (NTs) restore upper extremity function yet remain TS procedures. A combination of neurological, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electromyography (EMG) studies allows the identification of TS and non-TS myotomes in the upper extremities.

OBSERVATIONS

Nineteen months after NTs, flexor pollicis longus (FPL) and deep flexor of the index finger (FDP2) recovered to M4 (right UE), FPL recovered to M3 and FDP2 to M2 (left EU). The long head of the triceps brachii muscle recovered to M4 bilaterally. The Capabilities of Upper Extremity Questionnaire (CUE-Q) score for unilateral arm functionality increased by 44% (right) and 112.5% (left) and for bilateral arm functionality by 400%; the CUE-Q score for unilateral hand and finger function increased by 283% (right) and 166% (left).

LESSONS

The combination of neurological, MRI, and EMG studies before surgery and data obtained during surgery provides reliable information on the CSCI pattern, specifically the availability of motor donor nerves. Simultaneous bilateral restoration is required in the event of CSCI and significantly improves the unilateral and bilateral function of the UEs.