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Mark G. Burnett and Eric L. Zager

Clinicians caring for patients with brachial plexus and other nerve injuries must possess a clear understanding of the peripheral nervous system's response to trauma. In this article, the authors briefly review peripheral nerve injury (PNI) types, discuss the common injury classification schemes, and describe the dynamic processes of degeneration and reinnervation that characterize the PNI response.

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Mario K. Teo, Venkatesh S. Madhugiri and Gary K. Steinberg

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Zarina S. Ali, Eric L. Zager, Gregory G. Heuer and Sherman C. Stein

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Luke Macyszyn, Mark Attiah, Tracy S. Ma, Zarina Ali, Ryan Faught, Alisha Hossain, Karen Man, Hiren Patel, Rosanna Sobota, Eric L. Zager and Sherman C. Stein

OBJECTIVE

Moyamoya disease (MMD) is a chronic cerebrovascular disease that can lead to devastating neurological outcomes. Surgical intervention is the definitive treatment, with direct, indirect, and combined revascularization procedures currently employed by surgeons. The optimal surgical approach, however, remains unclear. In this decision analysis, the authors compared the effectiveness of revascularization procedures in both adult and pediatric patients with MMD.

METHODS

A comprehensive literature search was performed for studies of MMD. Using complication and success rates from the literature, the authors constructed a decision analysis model for treatment using a direct and indirect revascularization technique. Utility values for the various outcomes and complications were extracted from the literature examining preferences in similar clinical conditions. Sensitivity analysis was performed.

RESULTS

A structured literature search yielded 33 studies involving 4197 cases. Cases were divided into adult and pediatric populations. These were further subdivided into 3 different treatment groups: indirect, direct, and combined revascularization procedures. In the pediatric population at 5- and 10-year follow-up, there was no significant difference between indirect and combination procedures, but both were superior to direct revascularization. In adults at 4-year follow-up, indirect was superior to direct revascularization.

CONCLUSIONS

In the absence of factors that dictate a specific approach, the present decision analysis suggests that direct revascularization procedures are inferior in terms of quality-adjusted life years in both adults at 4 years and children at 5 and 10 years postoperatively, respectively. These findings were statistically significant (p < 0.001 in all cases), suggesting that indirect and combination procedures may offer optimal results at long-term follow-up.

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Zarina S. Ali, Gregory G. Heuer, Ryan W. F. Faught, Shriya H. Kaneriya, Umar A. Sheikh, Idrees S. Syed, Sherman C. Stein and Eric L. Zager

OBJECT

Adult upper trunk brachial plexus injuries result in significant disability. Several surgical treatment strategies exist, including nerve grafting, nerve transfers, and a combination of both approaches. However, no existing data clearly indicate the most successful strategy for restoring elbow flexion and shoulder abduction in these patients. The authors reviewed the literature to compare outcomes of the three surgical repair techniques listed above to determine the optimal approach to traumatic injury to the upper brachial plexus in adults.

METHODS

Both PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched for English-language articles containing the MeSH topic “brachial plexus” in conjunction with the word “injury” or “trauma” in the title and “surgery” or “repair” as a MeSH subheading or in the title, excluding pediatric articles and those articles limited to avulsions. The search was also limited to articles published after 1990 and containing at least 10 operated cases involving upper brachial plexus injuries. The search was supplemented with articles obtained through the “Related Articles” feature on PubMed and the bibliographies of selected publications. From the articles was collected information on the operation performed, number of operated cases, mean subject ages, sex distribution, interval between injury and surgery, source of nerve transfers, mean duration of follow-up, year of publication, and percentage of operative success in terms of elbow flexion and shoulder abduction of the injured limb. The recovery of elbow flexion and shoulder abduction was separately analyzed. A subanalysis was also performed to assess the recovery of elbow flexion following various neurotization techniques.

RESULTS

As regards the restoration of elbow flexion, nerve grafting led to significantly better outcomes than either nerve transfer or the combined techniques (F = 4.71, p = 0.0097). However, separating the Oberlin procedure from other neurotization techniques revealed that the former was significantly more successful (F = 82.82, p < 0.001). Moreover, in comparing the Oberlin procedure to nerve grafting or combined procedures, again the former was significantly more successful than either of the latter two approaches (F = 53.14; p < 0.001). In the restoration of shoulder abduction, nerve transfer was significantly more successful than the combined procedure (p = 0.046), which in turn was significantly better than nerve grafting procedures (F = 5.53, p = 0.0044).

CONCLUSIONS

According to data in this study, in upper trunk brachial plexus injuries in adults, the Oberlin procedure and nerve transfers are the more successful approaches to restore elbow flexion and shoulder abduction, respectively, compared with nerve grafting or combined techniques. A prospective, randomized controlled trial would be necessary to fully elucidate differences in outcome among the various surgical approaches.

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Willem Pondaag and Martijn J. A. Malessy

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Zarina S. Ali, Dara Bakar, Yun R. Li, Alex Judd, Hiren Patel, Eric L. Zager, Gregory G. Heuer and Sherman C. Stein

Object

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) represents a significant health problem with potentially devastating consequences. The most common form of NBPP involves the upper trunk roots. Currently, primary surgical repair is performed if clinical improvement is lacking. There has been increasing interest in “early” surgical repair of NBPPs, occurring within 3–6 months of life. However, early treatment recommendations ignore spontaneous recovery in cases of Erb's palsy. This study was undertaken to evaluate the optimal timing of surgical repair in this group with respect to quality of life.

Methods

The authors formulated a decision analytical model to compare 4 treatment strategies (no repair or repair at 3, 6, or 12 months of life) for infants with persistent NBPPs. The model derives data from a critical review of published studies and projects health-related quality of life and quality-adjusted life years over a lifetime.

Results

When evaluating the quality of life of infants with NBPP, improved outcomes are seen with delayed surgical repair at 12 months, compared with no repair or repair at early and intermediate time points, at 3 and 6 months, respectively. ANOVA showed that the differences among the 4 groups are highly significant (F = 8369; p < 0.0001). Pairwise post hoc comparisons revealed that there are highly significant differences between each pair of strategies (p < 0.0001). Meta-regression showed no evidence of improved outcomes with more recent treatment dates, compared with older ones, for either nonsurgical or for surgical treatment (p = 0.767 and p = 0.865, respectively).

Conclusions

These data support a delayed approach of primary surgical reconstruction to optimize quality of life. Early surgery for NBPPs may be an overly aggressive strategy for infants who would otherwise demonstrate spontaneous recovery of function by 12 months. A randomized, controlled trial would be necessary to fully elucidate the natural history of NBPP and determine the optimal time point for surgical intervention.