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Amir Samii, Gustavo Adolpho Carvalho and Madjid Samii

Object. Between 1994 and 1998, 44 nerve transfers were performed using a graft between a branch of the accessory nerve and musculocutaneous nerve to restore the flexion of the arm in patients with traumatic brachial plexus injuries. A retrospective study was conducted, including statistical evaluation of the following pre- and intraoperative parameters in 39 patients: 1) time interval between injury and surgery; and 2) length of the nerve graft used to connect the accessory and musculocutaneous nerves.

Methods. The postoperative follow-up interval ranged from 23 to 84 months, with a mean ± standard deviation of 36 ± 13 months. Reinnervation of the biceps muscle was achieved in 72% of the patients. Reinnervation of the musculocutaneous nerve was demonstrated in 86% of the patients who had undergone surgery within the first 6 months after injury, in 65% of the patients who had undergone surgery between 7 and 12 months after injury, and in only 50% of the patients who had undergone surgery 12 months after injury. A statistical comparison of the different preoperative time intervals (0–6 months compared with 7–12 months) showed a significantly better outcome in patients treated with early surgery (p < 0.05). An analysis of the impact of the length of the interposed nerve grafts revealed a statistically significant better outcome in patients with grafts 12 cm or shorter compared with that in patients with grafts longer than 12 cm (p < 0.005).

Conclusions. Together, these results demonstrated that outcome in patients who undergo accessory to musculocutaneous nerve neurotization for restoration of elbow flexion following brachial plexus injury is greatly dependent on the time interval between trauma and surgery and on the length of the nerve graft used.

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Madjid Samii, Rama Eghbal, Gustavo Adolpho Carvalho and Cordula Matthies

Object. A careful retrospective analysis of 36 cases was performed to evaluate the pre- and postoperative rates of morbidity that occur in patients with brainstem cavernous angiomas.

Methods. The authors evaluated immediate postoperative and follow-up outcomes with regard to clinical findings, the incidence of preoperative hemorrhage(s), location and size of the lesions, and the timing of the surgical procedure after the last hemorrhagic event. Specifically, the following parameters were analyzed: 1) number of hemorrhages; 2) the precise brainstem location (pontomesencephalic, pons, and medulla oblongata); 3) pre- and postoperative cranial nerve status; 4) pre- and postoperative motor and sensory deficits; 5) size (volume) of the lesions; and 6) pre- and postoperative Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) scores. Multiple hemorrhages were observed in 16 patients, particularly in those with pontomesencephalic cavernous angiomas (75%). The mean preoperative KPS score was 70.3 ± 16.3 (± standard deviation). Twenty-six patients (72.2%) presented with cranial nerve impairment, 13 (36.1%) with motor deficits, and 17 (47.2%) with sensory disturbance. Volume of the lesions ranged from 0.18 to 18.18 cm3 (mean 4.75 cm3). Postoperative complications included new cranial nerve deficits in 17 patients, motor deficits in three, and new sensory disturbances in 12 patients. In a mean follow-up period of 21.5 months, KPS scores were 80 to 100 in 22 patients. Timing of surgery (posthemorrhage) and multiple hemorrhages did not influence the long-term results. Higher preoperative KPS scores and smaller-volume lesions, however, were factors associated with a better final outcome (p < 0.05). Major morbidity was related mainly to preoperative status and less to surgical treatment. The incidence of new postoperative cranial nerve deficits was clearly lower than that demonstrated preoperatively because of the brainstem hemorrhages.

Conclusions. Based on these findings, resection of brainstem cavernomas is the treatment of choice in the majority of these cases because of the high incidence of morbidity related to one or often several brainstem hemorrhages.

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Gustavo Adolpho Carvalho, Guido Nikkhah, Cordula Matthies, Götz Penkert and Madjid Samii

✓ Surgical management and prognosis of traction injuries of the brachial plexus depend on the accurate diagnosis of root avulsion from the spinal cord. Myelography, computerized tomography (CT) myelography, and recently magnetic resonance (MR) imaging have become the main radiological methods for preoperative diagnosis of cervical root avulsions. Most of the previous studies on the accuracy of CT myelography and MR imaging studies have correlated the radiological findings with the extraspinal surgical findings at brachial plexus surgery. Surgical experience shows that in many cases extraspinal findings diverge from intradural determinations. Consequently, only correlation with the intradural surgical findings will allow assessment of the factual accuracy of CT myelography and MR imaging studies.

In a prospective study, 135 cervical roots (C5–8) were evaluated by CT myelography and/or MR imaging and further explored intradurally via a hemilaminectomy. The accuracy of the preoperative CT myelography—based diagnosis in relation to the intraoperative findings was 85%. On the other hand, MR imaging demonstrated an accuracy of only 52%. The most common reasons for false-positive or false-negative findings were: 1) partial rootlet avulsion; 2) intradural fibrosis; and 3) dural cystic lesions. Computerized tomography myelography scans using 1- to 3-mm axial slices prove to be the most reliable method to evaluate preoperatively the presence of complete or partial root avulsion in traumatic brachial plexus injuries.

Because extradural judgment of cervical root avulsion can be unreliable, accurate assessment of intraspinal root avulsion enormously simplifies the decision concerning the choice of donor nerves for transplantation and/or neurotization during brachial plexus surgery.