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Jayme Augusto Bertelli and Marcos Flávio Ghizoni

OBJECT

The objective of this study was to report the results of elbow, thumb, and finger extension reconstruction via nerve transfer in midcervical spinal cord injuries.

METHODS

Thirteen upper limbs from 7 patients with tetraplegia, with an average age of 26 years, were operated on an average of 7 months after a spinal cord injury. The posterior division of the axillary nerve was used to reinnervate the triceps long and upper medial head motor branches in 9 upper limbs. Both the posterior division and the branch to the middle deltoid were used in 2 upper limbs, and the anterior division of the axillary nerve in the final 2 limbs. For thumb and finger extension reconstruction, the nerve to the supinator was transferred to the posterior interosseous nerve.

RESULTS

In 22 of the 27 recipient nerves, a peripheral type of palsy with muscle denervation was identified. At an average of 19 months follow-up, elbow strength scored M4 in 11 upper limbs and M3 in 2, according to the British Medical Research Council scale. Thumb extension scored M4 in 8 upper limbs and scored M3 in 4. Finger extension scored M4 in 12 hands. No donor-site deficits were reported or observed.

CONCLUSIONS

Nerve transfers are effective at restoring elbow, thumb, and finger extension in patients with a midcervical spinal cord injury, which occurs in the majority of patients with a peripheral type of palsy with muscle denervation in their upper limbs. Efforts should be made to perform operations in these patients within 12 months of injury.

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Jayme Augusto Bertelli and Marcos Flávio Ghizoni

OBJECT

Results of radial nerve grafting are largely unknown for lesions of the radial nerve that occur proximal to the humerus, including those within the posterior cord.

METHODS

The authors describe 13 patients with proximal radial nerve injuries who were surgically treated and then followed for at least 24 months. The patients’ average age was 26 years and the average time between accident and surgery was 6 months. Sural nerve graft length averaged 12 cm. Recovery was scored according to the British Medical Research Council (BMRC) scale, which ranges from M0 to M5 (normal muscle strength).

RESULTS

After grafting, all 7 patients with an elbow extension palsy recovered elbow extension, scoring M4. Six of the 13 recovered M4 wrist extension, 6 had M3, and 1 had M2. Thumb and finger extension was scored M4 in 3 patients, M3 in 2, M2 in 2, and M0 in 6.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors consider levels of strength of M4 for elbow and wrist extension and M3 for thumb and finger extension to be good results. Based on these criteria, overall good results were obtained in only 5 of the 13 patients. In proximal radial nerve lesions, the authors now advocate combining nerve grafts with nerve or tendon transfers to reconstruct wrist, thumb, and finger extension.

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Jayme Augusto Bertelli and Marcos Flávio Ghizoni

OBJECTIVE

Transfer of the spinal accessory nerve to the suprascapular nerve is a common procedure, performed to reestablish shoulder motion in patients with total brachial plexus palsy. However, the results of this procedure remain largely unknown.

METHODS

Over an 11-year period (2002–2012), 257 patients with total brachial plexus palsy were operated upon in the authors' department by a single surgeon and had the spinal accessory nerve transferred to the suprascapular nerve. Among these, 110 had adequate follow-up and were included in this study. Their average age was 26 years (SD 8.4 years), and the mean interval between their injury and surgery was 5.2 months (SD 2.4 months). Prior to 2005, the suprascapular and spinal accessory nerves were dissected through a classic supraclavicular L-shape incision (n = 29). Afterward (n = 81), the spinal accessory and suprascapular nerves were dissected via an oblique incision, extending from the point at which the plexus crossed the clavicle to the anterior border of the trapezius muscle. In 17 of these patients, because of clavicle fractures or dislocation, scapular fractures or retroclavicular scarring, the incision was extended by detaching the trapezius from the clavicle to expose the suprascapular nerve at the suprascapular fossa. In all patients, the brachial plexus was explored and elbow flexion reconstructed by root grafting (n = 95), root grafting and phrenic nerve transfer (n = 6), phrenic nerve transfer (n = 1), or third, fourth, and fifth intercostal nerve transfer. Postoperatively, patients were followed for an average of 40 months (SD 13.7 months).

RESULTS

Failed recovery, meaning less than 30° abduction, was observed in 10 (9%) of the 110 patients. The failure rate was 25% between 2002 and 2004, but dropped to 5% after the staged/extended approach was introduced. The mean overall range of abduction recovery was 58.5° (SD 26°). Comparing before and after distal suprascapular nerve exploration (2005–2012), the range of abduction recovery was 45° (SD 25.1°) versus 62° (SD 25.3°), respectively (p = 0.002). In patients who recovered at least 30° of abduction, recovery of elbow flexion to at least an M3 level of strength increased the range of abduction by an average of 13° (p = 0.01). Before the extended approach, 2 (7%) of 29 patients recovered active external rotation of 20° and 120°. With the staged/extended approach, 32 (40%) of 81 recovered some degree of active external rotation. In these patients, the average range of motion measured from the thorax was 87° (SD 40.6°).

CONCLUSIONS

In total palsies of the brachial plexus, using the spinal accessory nerve for transfer to the suprascapular nerve is reliable and provides some recovery of abduction for a large majority of patients. In a few patients, a more extensive approach to access the suprascapular nerve, including, if necessary, dissection in the suprascapular fossa, may enhance outcomes.

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Jayme Augusto Bertelli, Marcos Flávio Ghizoni and Cristiano Paulo Tacca

OBJECT

The objective of this study was to report the results of pronator quadratus (PQ) motor branch transfers to the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) motor branch to reconstruct wrist extension in C5–8 root lesions of the brachial plexus.

METHODS

Twenty-eight patients, averaging 24 years of age, with C5–8 root injuries underwent operations an average of 7 months after their accident. In 19 patients, wrist extension was impossible at baseline, whereas in 9 patients wrist extension was managed by activating thumb and wrist extensors. When these 9 patients grasped an object, their wrist dropped and grasp strength was lost. Wrist extension was reconstructed by transferring the PQ motor to the ECRB motor branch. After surgery, patients were followed for at least 12 months, with final follow-up an average of 22 months after surgery.

RESULTS

Successful reinnervation of the ECRB was demonstrated in 27 of the 28 patients. In 25 of the patients, wrist extension scored M4, and in 2 it scored M3.

CONCLUSIONS

In C5–8 root injuries, wrist extension can be predictably reconstructed by transferring the PQ motor branch to reinnervate the ECRB.

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Tarek EI Madhoun and Rajiv Midha