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Open access

Phantom limb pain, traumatic neuroma, or nerve sheath tumor? Illustrative case

Patrick J Halloran, E. Antonio Chiocca, and Andres Santos

BACKGROUND

Phantom limb pain and traumatic neuromas are not commonly seen in neurosurgical practice. These conditions can present with similar symptoms; however, management of traumatic neuroma is often surgical, whereas phantom limb pain is treated with conservative measures.

OBSERVATIONS

A 77-year-old female patient with a long-standing history of an above-the-knee amputation experienced severe pain in her right posterior buttocks area for several years’ duration, attributed to phantom limb pain, which radiated down the stump of her leg and was treated with a variety of conservative measures. A recent exacerbation of her pain led to a prolonged hospitalization with magnetic resonance imaging of her leg stump, revealing a mass in the sciatic notch, at a relative distance from the stump. The anatomical location of the mass on the sciatic nerve in the notch led to a presumed radiological diagnosis of nerve sheath tumor, for which she underwent excision. At surgery, a neuroma of the proximal portion of the transected sciatic nerve that had retracted from the amputated stump to the notch was diagnosed.

LESSONS

Traumatic neuromas of transected major nerves after limb amputation should be considered in the differential diagnosis of phantom limb pain.

Open access

Minimally invasive resection of a prominent transverse process in neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome: new application for a primarily spinal approach. Illustrative case

Marc Hohenhaus, Johann Lambeck, Nico Kremers, Jürgen Beck, Christoph Scholz, and Ulrich Hubbe

BACKGROUND

The optimal surgical approach to treat neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (nTOS) depends on the individual patient’s anatomy as well as the surgeon’s experience. The authors present a minimally invasive posterior approach for the resection of a prominent transverse process to reduce local muscular trauma.

OBSERVATIONS

A 19-year-old female presented with painful sensations in the right arm and severe fine-motor skill dysfunction in the right hand, each of which had been present for several years. Further examination confirmed affected C8 and T1 areas, and imaging showed an elongated C7 transverse process displacing the lower trunk of the brachial plexus. Decompression of the plexus structures by resection of the C7 transverse process was indicated, owing to persistent neurological effects. Surgery was performed using a minimally invasive posterior approach in which the nuchal soft tissue was bluntly dissected by dilatators and resection of the transverse process was done microscopically through a tubular retractor. The postoperative course showed a sufficient reduction of pain and paresthesia.

LESSONS

The authors describe a minimally invasive posterior approach for the treatment of nTOS with the aim of providing indirect relief of strain on brachial plexus structures. The advantages of this technique include a small skin incision and minor soft tissue damage.

Open access

Selective upper trunk posterior division fascicular nerve transfer for proximal spinal accessory neuropathy: illustrative case

Kitty Y Wu and Robert J Spinner

BACKGROUND

Spinal accessory nerve palsy can lead to severe shoulder pain and weakness, lateral scapular winging, and limitations in overhead activity. It most often occurs because of iatrogenic injury from procedures within the posterior triangle of the neck.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors present the case of a 39-year-old male with symptoms of right shoulder weakness and neck pain after a total thyroidectomy and right neck dissection. With ultrasound findings of a neuroma-in-continuity but no clinical or electromyographic signs of reinnervation at 6 months, surgical intervention was indicated. Operative exploration confirmed a very proximal injury and nonconducting neuroma-in-continuity of the spinal accessory nerve. A selective distal nerve transfer from the posterior division of the upper trunk was performed. At the 2.5-year follow-up, the patient demonstrated excellent recovery of full active shoulder abduction and forward flexion, return to full-time employment, and mild residual scapular winging.

LESSONS

Distal nerve transfers should be considered in cases of late presentation when primary repair is not possible or long interpositional grafts are required. Selective fascicular transfer from the posterior division of the upper trunk provides the advantages of a single incision, short reinnervation time, and synergistic donor function to facilitate motor reeducation.