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Sunit Das, Aruna Ganju, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

✓Tumors of the brachial plexus are relatively rare and present a clinical challenge for the neurosurgeon. The management of these tumors therefore requires not only an understanding of the complex anatomy of the brachial plexus but also an appreciation of the appropriate surgical approach to the various tumors that may be encountered. Over a 30-year period (1969–1999), 226 patients with brachial plexus tumors were evaluated and surgically treated by the senior authors (R.L.T., D.G.K.). In the present paper they review the most common benign and malignant brachial plexus tumors and discuss management and surgical principles established through their experience at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

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Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel, Gregory Moes and David G. Kline

Object. This is a retrospective review of 146 surgically treated benign and malignant peripheral non—neural sheath tumors (PNNSTs). Tumor classifications with patient numbers, locations of benign PNNSTs, and surgical techniques and adjunctive treatments are presented. The results of a literature review regarding tumor frequencies are presented.

Methods. One hundred forty-six patients with 111 benign and 35 malignant PNNSTs were treated between 1969 and 1999 at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). The benign tumors included 33 ganglion cysts, 16 cases of localized hypertrophic neuropathy, 12 lipomas, 12 tumors of vascular origin, and 11 desmoid tumors. There were four each of lipofibrohamartomas, myositis ossificans, osteochondromas, and ganglioneuromas; two each of meningiomas, cystic hygromas, myoblastoma or granular cell tumors, triton tumors, and lymphangiomas; and one epidermoid cyst. The locations of benign PNNSTs were the following: 33 in the brachial plexus region, 39 in an upper extremity, one in the pelvic plexus, and 38 in a lower extremity.

The malignant PNNSTs included 35 surgically treated carcinomas, 15 of which originated in the breast and nine in the lung. There were two melanomas metastatic to nerve and one tumor each that had metastasized from the bladder, rectum, skin, head and neck, and thyroid, and from a primary Ewing sarcoma. There was a single lymphoma that had metastasized to the radial nerve and one chordoma and one osteosarcoma, each of which had metastasized to the brachial plexus.

Conclusions. There were more benign PNNSTs than malignant ones. Benign tumors were relatively equally distributed in the brachial plexus region and upper and lower extremities, with the exception of the pelvic plexus, which had only one tumor.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel, Gregory Moes and David G. Kline

Object. This is a retrospective review of 397 benign and malignant peripheral neural sheath tumors (PNSTs) that were surgically treated between 1969 and 1999 at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). The surgical techniques and adjunctive treatments are presented, the tumors are classified with respect to type and prevalence at each neuroanatomical location, and the management of malignant PNSTs is reviewed.

Methods. There were 361 benign PNSTs (91%). One hundred forty-one benign lesions were brachial plexus tumors: 54 schwannomas (38%) and 87 neurofibromas (62%), of which 55 (63%) were solitary neurofibromas and 32 (37%) were neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)—associated neurofibromas. Among the brachial plexus lesions supraclavicular tumors predominated with 37 (69%) of 54 schwannomas; 34 (62%) of 55 solitary neurofibromas; and 19 (59%) of 32 NF1-associated neurofibromas. One hundred ten upper-extremity benign PNSTs consisted of 32 schwannomas (29%) and 78 neurofibromas (71%), of which 45 (58%) were sporadic neurofibromas and 33 (42%) were NF1-associated neurofibromas. Twenty-five benign PNSTs were removed from the pelvic plexus. Lower-extremity PNSTs included 32 schwannomas (38%) and 53 neurofibromas (62%), of which 31 were solitary neurofibromas and 22 were NF1-associated neurofibromas.

There were 36 malignant PNSTs: 28 neurogenic sarcomas and eight other sarcomas (fibro-, spindle cell, synovial, and perineurial sarcomas).

Conclusions. The majority of tumors were benign PNSTs from the brachial plexus region. Most of the benign PNSTs in all locations were neurofibromas, with sporadic neurofibromas predominating. Similar numbers of schwannomas were found in the upper and lower extremities, whereas neurofibromas were more prevalent in the upper extremities. Despite aggressive limb-ablation or limb-sparing surgery plus adjunctive therapy, malignant PNSTs continue to be associated with high morbidity and mortality rates.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

Object. The authors present a retrospective analysis of 119 surgically treated femoral nerve lesions at intrapelvic and thigh levels seen at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

Methods. Femoral nerve lesions treated between 1967 and 2000, (89 traumatic injuries and 30 tumors and cystic lesions) were evaluated for injury mechanisms, resulting lesions, surgical management, and postoperative functional outcomes by using retrospective chart reviews.

The most common injury mechanism was iatrogenic (52 cases), which occurred after hernia and hip operations (10 each), followed by arterial bypass and gynecological procedures (eight each), angiography (seven), abdominal surgery (five), appendectomy (two), a laparoscopy, and a lumbar sympathectomy. Other injury mechanisms included hip or pelvic fractures (19), gunshot wounds (10), and lacerations (eight). The 30 femoral nerve tumors and cystic lesions consisted of neurofibromas (16), schwannomas (nine), ganglionic cysts (two), neurogenic sarcomas (two), and a leiomyosarcoma.

Forty-four patients underwent neurolysis. Some had recordable nerve action potentials (NAPs) across their lesions in continuity, despite severe distal loss. Others with recordable NAPs had mild loss, but also experienced a pain problem, which was helped in some by neurolysis. In 36 patients, in whom repairs were performed using long sural grafts for mostly proximal pelvic-level injuries, recovery of useful function occurred. Eight of nine thigh-level suture repairs led to improvement to good functional levels. Most of the tumors and cystic lesions were resected, with preservation of preoperative function.

Conclusions. The majority of femoral nerve injuries resulted in lesions in continuity, and intraoperative NAP recordings were essential in evaluating axonal regeneration across these lesions. Despite severe and frequently proximal injury levels requiring repairs with long grafts, femoral nerve lesion repairs resulted in good functional recovery.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

Object

The authors report the surgery-related results obtained in 143 patients with stretch-induced infraclavicular brachial plexus injuries (BPIs). The entire series comprised 1019 operative BPIs managed at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center between 1968 and 1998.

Methods

Infraclavicular lesions represented 143 (28%) of the total of 509 stretch injuries involving both the infra-and supraclavicular brachial plexus, of which 366 (72%) were supraclavicular lesions. The operative approach is thoroughly outlined, and common patterns and combinations of involvement of nerves peculiar to the infraclavicular area are presented. Overall, the results of suture and graft repair were favorable for the lateral and posterior cord and their outflows. Repair of medial cord–median nerve also yielded acceptable results. The results of medial cord and medial cord–ulnar nerve, however, were poor. The incidence of associated injuries in the infraclavicular as opposed to the supraclavicular area, including shoulder dislocation and fracture and humeral fractures as well as vascular injuries including axillary artery injury was higher. Results of a literature search supported the finding that vascular injuries were increased due to the juxtaposition of vessels among the brachial plexus elements.

Conclusions

Thus, although less common than their supraclavicular counterpart, infraclavicular stretch injury lesions when they occur are technically more difficult to treat and are associated with a higher incidence of vascular and dislocation/fraction injuries. Favorable results were obtained for lateral and posterior cord lesions and their outflows, with acceptable outcome after medial cord–median nerve stretch injury repair. The results of medial cord and medial cord to ulnar nerve, however, were poor.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

Object

The authors focus on injury mechanisms involved in 1019 operative brachial plexus injuries (BPIs) managed between 1968 and 1998 at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC).

Methods

Data regarding these mechanisms of injury were obtained via retrospective chart reviews of patients who had undergone operations at LSUHSC.

Five main mechanisms of injury to the brachial plexus occurred in the series. These included 509 stretch/contusion injuries (49%) with four patterns of presentation in 366 patients: 208 C5–T1 nerve injuries; 75 C5–7, 55 C5–6 injuries; and 28 involving the C8–T1 or C7–T1 nerves. Stretch/contusion injury was followed in frequency by gunshot wound (GSW), resulting in 118 injuries (12%). Most of the 293 involved plexus elements had some gross continuity when surgically exposed. Seventy-one lacerations involved the brachial plexus (7%), including 83 sharp lacerations caused by knives or glass; 61 blunt transections due to automobile metal, fan, and motor blades, chain saws, or animal bites.

Nontraumatic BPIs included 160 cases of thoracic outlet syndrome or 16% of the total of 1019 BPIs. There were 161 tumors (16%) of neural sheath origin including 55 solitary neurofibromas (34%), 32 neurofibromas associated with von Recklinghausen disease (20%), 54 schwannomas (34%), and 20 malignant nerve sheath tumors (20%) removed. Obstetrical BPI was not included in the original series; however, the current literature is reviewed in this paper.

Conclusions

The conclusion of this study is that the brachial plexus can be injured by multiple mechanisms of which stretch/contusion injury is the most frequently encountered, followed by GSWs.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

The authors review 118 operative brachial plexus gunshot wounds (GSWs), causing 293 element injuries that were managed over a 30-year period at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC). Retrospective chart reviews were performed. Using the LSUHSC grading system for motor sensory function, each element's grades were combined and averaged.

Most of the 293 injured elements were found to have gross continuity at operation and of 202 elements with complete neurological loss, only 16 (8%) exhibited total disruption. Of 293 injuries, 128 elements with complete or incomplete loss were not only in continuity when explored but also had positive intraoperative nerve action potentials (NAPs). After neurolysis, 120 of 128 elements in continuity (94%) improved to greater than or equal to Grade 3 function. Elements not regenerating early usually required repair. One hundred fifty-six of 202 completely or incompletely injured elements (77%) required resection and suture or graft repair based on intraoperative NAPs. Neurolysis achieved greater than or equal to Grade 3 results in 42 (91%) of 46 elements with complete loss. Suture repair resulted in good outcomes in 14 (67%) of 21 and in 73 (54%) of 135 undergoing graft repairs (1 to 3.5 cm length) and presenting with complete loss.

Of 91 incomplete elements, intraoperative NAPs were positive in 82 (90%) and 78 of 82 had good results. Nine had negative NAPs and six elements required suture repair. Three required grafts with results of greater than or equal to Grade 3 in five (83%) of six and two (67%) of three, respectively.

Based on 118 patient results with 293 injured elements, guidelines for the management of GSWs were established as described in this paper.

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Robert J. Spinner, John L. D. Atkinson, Bernd W. Scheithauer, Michael G. Rock, Rolfe Birch, Thomas A. Kim, Michel Kliot, David G. Kline and Robert L. Tiel

Object. The peroneal nerve is the most common site of intraneural ganglia. The neurological deficit associated with these cysts is often severe and the operation to eradicate them is difficult. The aims of this multicenter study were to collate the authors' experience with a relatively rare lesion and to improve clinical outcomes by better understanding its controversial pathogenesis.

Methods. Part I of this paper offers a description of 24 patients with peroneal intraneural ganglia who were treated by surgeons aware of the importance of the peroneal nerve's articular branch. Part II offers a description of three more patients who were seen after earlier operations in which the ganglion was excised, but the articular branch was not identified (all reportedly gross-total resections). Twenty-six of the 27 patients presented with clinical, electrophysiological, and imaging evidence of a common peroneal nerve (CPN) lesion, predominantly affecting the deep peroneal nerve (DPN) division, and one patient presented with a painful mass of the CPN that was not accompanied by a neurological deficit.

In all 24 patients in Part I there was magnetic resonance (MR) imaging evidence of a connection between the cyst and the superior tibiofibular joint, including one patient in whom high-resolution (3-tesla) MR neurography demonstrated the pathological articular branch itself. At the operation, the communication proved to extend through the articular branch of the CPN in all cases. The operation consisted of drainage of the cyst and ligation of the articular branch. At a minimum follow-up period of 1 year, these patients experienced significant improvements in their neuropathic pain, but only mild improvements in their functional deficits. In none of the 24 patients was there evidence of an intraneural recurrence. In three patients, however, extraneural ganglia developed: two patients with symptoms subsequently underwent resection of the superior tibiofibular joint without further recurrence and one patient with no symptoms was followed clinically after the recurrence was detected incidentally on 1-year postoperative imaging. As predicted, in Part II all three patients in whom the articular branch had not been ligated experienced early intraneural recurrence; both postoperative MR images and original studies, which were retrospectively examined, demonstrated a connection with the superior tibiofibular joint.

Conclusions. The clinical presentation, electrical studies, imaging characteristics, and operative observations regarding peroneal intraneural ganglia are predictable. Treatment must address the underlying pathoanatomy and should include decompression of the cyst and ligation of the articular branch of the nerve. To avoid extraneural recurrence, resection of the superior tibiofibular joint may also be necessary, but indications for this additional procedure need to be defined. These recommendations are based on the authors' belief that intraneural peroneal ganglia arise from the superior tibiofibular joint and are connected to it by the articular branch.