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  • Author or Editor: Jayme Augusto Bertelli x
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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

Object

Classically, C5–7 root injuries of the brachial plexus have been associated with palsies of shoulder abduction/external rotation, elbow flexion/extension, and wrist, thumb, and finger extension. However, current myotome maps generally indicate that C-8 participates in the innervation of thumb and finger extensors. Therefore, the authors have hypothesized that, for palsies of the thumb and finger extensors, the injury should affect the C-5 through C-8 roots.

Methods

The authors tested their hypothesis in 30 patients with upper-type palsies of the brachial plexus. They traced a correlation between clinical findings and root injury, as documented by CT myelography, direct visualization during surgery, and electrophysiological studies.

Results

In C5–8 root injuries, shoulder abduction and external rotation were paralyzed, and in all patients, wrist extensors were paralyzed. However, in 22 of the 30 patients, wrist extension was possible, because of contraction of the extensor digitorum communis and extensor pollicis longus. Wrist flexion and pronation also were preserved. The T-1 root contributed significantly to innervation of the thumb and finger flexors, ensuring 34% grasping and 40% pinch strength relative to the normal side. Hand sensation was largely preserved.

Conclusions

Based on the authors' observations, they suspect that the clinical scenario previously attributed to a C5–7 root injury is, in fact, a C5–8 root injury. The authors propose referring to this partial palsy of the brachial plexus as a “T-1 hand.”

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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 and Marcos Flávio Ghizoni

Object

The purpose of this study was to investigate the usefulness of preoperative evaluation based on clinical testing and computed tomography (CT) myelography in differentiating root rupture (that is, graftable root) from root avulsion in total brachial plexus palsy.

Methods

Thirty-two patients with total brachial plexus palsy were clinically tested for the presence of phrenic nerve palsy, supraclavicular Tinel sign, shoulder protraction, Bernard–Horner syndrome, and hand pain. The patients underwent CT myelography and then underwent surgery. The combination of a positive Tinel sign and a positive shoulder protraction test accurately predicted the presence of a graftable root in 93.7% of the cases. A 96.8% rate of accuracy was attained if the results of the CT myelography were considered together with the clinical signs. The presence of Bernard–Horner syndrome and hand pain accurately indicated avulsion of the lower roots in 93.7% of the patients. Computed tomography myelography accurately predicted the condition of the lower roots in 100% of the cases. Total avulsion injury was observed in five cases (16%). The lower roots were avulsed in 94% of the cases. The C-5 and C-6 roots were grafted 40 times, and a suitable root stump for grafting lay in a retroscalenic position in 18 (45%) of the 40 cases.

Conclusions

Preoperative assessment based on clinical examination and CT myelography allowed correct surgical planning in more than 90% of the cases.

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Jayme Augusto Bertelli and Marcos Flávio Ghizoni

Object. The goal of this study was to evaluate outcomes in patients with brachial plexus avulsion injuries who underwent contralateral motor rootlet and ipsilateral nerve transfers to reconstruct shoulder abduction/external rotation and elbow flexion.

Methods. Within 6 months after the injury, 24 patients with a mean age of 21 years underwent surgery in which the contralateral C-7 motor rootlet was transferred to the suprascapular nerve by using sural nerve grafts. The biceps motor branch or the musculocutaneous nerve was repaired either by an ulnar nerve fascicular transfer or by transfer of the 11th cranial nerve or the phrenic nerve. The mean recovery in abduction was 90° and 92° in external rotation. In cases of total palsy, only two patients recovered external rotation and in those cases mean external rotation was 70°. Elbow flexion was achieved in all cases. In cases of ulnar nerve transfer, the muscle scores were M5 in one patient, M4 in six patients, and M3+ in five patients. Elbow flexion repair involving the use of the 11th cranial nerve resulted in a score of M3+ in five patients and M4 in two patients. After surgery involving the phrenic nerve, two patients received a score of M3+ and two a score of M4. Results were clearly better in patients with partial lesions and in those who were shorter than 170 cm (p < 0.01). The length of the graft used in motor rootlet transfers affected only the recovery of external rotation. There was no permanent injury at the donor sites.

Conclusions. Motor rootlet transfer represents a reliable and potent neurotizer that allows the reconstruction of abduction and external rotation in partial injuries.

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Jayme Augusto Bertelli, Marcos Flávio Ghizoni and Cristiano Paulo Tacca

In a case involving tetraplegia and paralysis of elbow extension, the authors transferred teres minor branches to the nerve of the triceps long head. Surgery was performed bilaterally 9 months after the patient sustained a spinal cord injury. Fourteen months postoperatively, elbow extension was complete (British Medical Research Council Score M4). Harvesting of the teres minor motor branch produced no deficits in shoulder function. In patients with tetraplegia, nerve transfer seems to be a promising new alternative for elbow extension reconstruction.

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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.