The goal of this study was to determine the functional efficacy of acellular processed nerve allograft (ALG) as compared to sural nerve autograft (AUG) harvested at time of surgery for children with obstetrical brachial plexus injury (OBPI).
A retrospective review of records was performed in patients who underwent surgical repair of OBPI between 2009 and 2015 at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Patients were grouped based on the type of nerve graft used (AUG using the patient’s own sural nerve or decellularized processed cadaveric nerve ALG) and compared in terms of motor strength, British Medical Research Council score, functionality (Mallet scale score), surgical time, rate of complications, and need for further intervention.
A total of 52 records were identified meeting study criteria. Sural nerve AUG was used in 22 cases and ALG in 30 cases. Changes from pre- to postsurgical assessment of motor strength were significant for all muscle groups measured except for elbow extension for both groups. All Mallet scores increased significantly. No significant differences were observed in motor strength and functional components between groups. Interventions using ALG had shorter operative times than those performed using AUG. No significant difference was observed in terms of need for further intervention. Two patients (9%) in the AUG group developed stitch abscesses at the harvest site, whereas there were no infectious complications reported in the ALG group.
These findings suggest equivalence in terms of muscle strength and functional outcomes between the use of AUG and ALG for patients with OBPI. However, the less invasive character of ALG repair decreases surgical time and risk of complications.