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.