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Robert J. Spinner, Alexander Y. Shin and Allen T. Bishop

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Marie-Noëlle Hébert-Blouin, Bahram Mokri, Alexander Y. Shin, Allen T. Bishop and Robert J. Spinner

Object

Patients with brachial plexus injury (BPI) present with a combination of motor weakness/paralysis, sensory deficits, and pain. Brachial plexus injury is generally not believed to be associated with headaches. However, CSF leaks may be associated with CSF volume–depletion (low-pressure) headaches and can occur in BPI secondary to nerve root avulsion. Only a few cases of headaches associated with BPI have been reported. It is unknown if headaches in patients with BPI occur so rarely, or if they are just unrecognized by physicians and/or patients in which the focus of attention is the affected limb. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of CSF volume–depletion headaches in patients with BPI.

Methods

All adult patients presenting at the Mayo brachial plexus clinic with traumatic BPI were asked to complete a questionnaire addressing the presence and quality of headaches following their injury. The patients' clinical, injury, and imaging characteristics were subsequently reviewed.

Results

Between December 2008 and July 2010, 145 patients completed the questionnaire. Twenty-two patients reported new onset headaches occurring after their BPI. Eight of these patients experienced positional headaches, suggestive of CSF volume depletion. One of the patients with orthostatic headaches was excluded because the headaches immediately followed a lumbar puncture for a myelogram. Six of the other 7 patients with positional headaches had a clear preganglionic BPI. The available imaging studies in these 6 patients revealed evidence of CSF leaks: pseudomeningoceles (n = 5), CSF tracking into soft tissues (n = 3), CSF tracking into the intraspinal compartment (n = 3), CSF tracking into the pleural space (n = 2), and low-positioned cerebellar tonsils (n = 2).

Conclusions

In this retrospective study, 15.2% of patients (22 of 145 patients) with traumatic BPI suffered from a new-onset headache. Seven of these patients (4.8%) experienced postural headaches clearly suggestive of CSF volume depletion likely secondary to a CSF leak associated with the BPI, whereas the other 15 patients (10.3%) suffered headaches that may have represented a variant of CSF depletion headaches without a postural characteristic or a headache from another cause. These data suggest that CSF volume–depletion headaches occur in a significant proportion of patients with BPI and have been underrecognized and underreported.

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Kimberly A. Barrie, Scott P. Steinmann, Alexander Y. Shin, Robert J. Spinner and Allen T. Bishop

Object

The authors report the functional outcomes after functioning free muscle transfer (FFMT) for restoration of the upper-extremity movement after brachial plexus injury (BPI).

Methods

The authors conducted a retrospective review of 36 gracilis FFMT procedures performed in 27 patients with BPI between 1990 and 2000. Eighteen patients underwent a single gracilis FFMT procedure for restoration of either elbow flexion (17 cases) or finger flexion (one case). Nine patients underwent a double free muscle transfer for simultaneous restoration of elbow flexion and wrist extension (first muscle) and finger flexion (second muscle), combined with direct triceps neurotization. The results obtained in 29 cases of FFMT in which the follow-up period was 1 year are reported.

Neurotization of the donor muscle was performed using the musculocutaneous nerve (one case), spinal accessory nerve (12 cases), or multiple intercostal motor nerves (16 cases). Two second-stage muscle flaps failed secondary to vascular insufficiency. Mean electromyography-measured reinnervation time was 5 months. At a minimum follow-up period of 1 year, five muscles achieved less than or equal to Grade M2, eight Grade M3, four Grade M4, and 12 Grade M5. Transfer for combined elbow flexion and wrist extension compared with elbow flexion alone lowered the overall results for elbow flexion strength. Seventy-nine percent of the FFMTs for elbow flexion alone (single transfer) and 63% of similarly innervated muscles transferred for combined motion achieved at least Grade M4 elbow flexion strength.

Conclusions

Functioning free muscle transfer is a viable reconstructive option for restoration of upper-extremity function in the setting of severe BPI. It is possible to achieve good to excellent outcomes in terms of muscle grades with the simultaneous reconstruction of two functions by one FFMT, making restoration of basic hand function possible. More reliable results are obtained when a single FFMT is performed for a single function.

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Harvey Chim, Michelle F. Kircher, Robert J. Spinner, Allen T. Bishop and Alexander Y. Shin

OBJECT

Transfer of the triceps motor branch has been used for treatment of isolated axillary nerve palsy in the adult population. However, there are no published data on the effectiveness of this procedure in the pediatric population with traumatic injuries. The authors reviewed demographics and outcomes in their series of pediatric patients who underwent this procedure.

METHODS

Six patients ranging in age from 10 to 17 years underwent triceps motor branch transfer for the treatment of isolated axillary nerve injuries between 4 and 8 months after the inciting injury. Deltoid muscle strength was evaluated using the modified British Medical Research Council (MRC) grading system. Shoulder abduction at last follow-up was measured.

RESULTS

The mean duration of follow-up was 38 months. The average postoperative MRC grading of deltoid muscle strength was 3.6 ± 1.3. The median MRC grade was 4. One patient who did not achieve an MRC grade of 3 suffered multiple injuries from high-velocity trauma. Unlike in the adult population, age, body mass index of the patient, and delay from injury to surgery were not significant factors affecting the outcome of the procedure.

CONCLUSIONS

In the pediatric population with traumatic injuries, isolated axillary nerve injury treated with triceps motor branch transfer can result in good outcomes.

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Caroline A. Hundepool, Tim H. J. Nijhuis, Dimitra Kotsougiani, Patricia F. Friedrich, Allen T. Bishop and Alexander Y. Shin

OBJECTIVE

Commercially available processed nerve allografts have been shown to be inferior to autografts in previous animal studies. The authors hypothesized that combining different processing and storage techniques will result in improved nerve ultrastructure preservation, lower immunogenicity, and minimized cellular debris. Different processing protocols were evaluated using chemical detergents, enzymes, and irradiation, with the addition the of enzyme elastase, were used. Additionally, the difference between cold and frozen storage was investigated. The goal of this study was to create an optimized nerve allograft.

METHODS

Fifty rat nerves were decellularized with modifications of previous protocols and the addition of elastase. Subsequently, the nerve segments were stored at either 4°C or −80°C. Both processed and fresh control nerves were analyzed with confocal microscopy using immunohistochemical staining on the basal lamina (laminin γ-1), Schwann cells (S100 protein), and immunogenicity using major histocompatibility complex–I (MHCI) staining. Morphology of the ultrastructure and amount of cellular debris were analyzed on cross-sections of the nerves stained with toluidine blue and H & E, and by using electron microscopy.

RESULTS

Nerve ultrastructure was preserved with all decellularization protocols. Storage at −80°C severely altered nerve ultrastructure after any decellularization method. Elastase was found to significantly reduce the immunogenicity and amount of Schwann cells, while maintaining good structural properties.

CONCLUSIONS

Reduced immunogenicity, diminished cellular debris, and the elimination of Schwann cells was observed when elastase was added to the nerve processing while maintaining ultrastructure. Storage at −80°C after the decellularization process heavily damaged the nerve ultrastructure as compared with cold storage. Further in vivo studies are needed to prove the nerve regenerative capacity of these optimized allografts.

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Mikko Larsen, Thomas M. Habermann, Allen T. Bishop, Alexander Y. Shin and Robert J. Spinner

✓Reconstruction of extensive nerve defects is hampered by the amount of autogenous nerve tissue available for transplantation and by donor site morbidity. Nerve allografts, being of foreign origin and potentially unlimited in supply, provide a solution to these problems. Studies have shown that nerve allotransplants require immunosuppression only until end-organ connections are made and that immunosuppressant therapy may be subsequently discontinued with no negative effect on functional outcome. Also, recent experimental and clinical focus has been on shorter periods of immunosuppression in order to reduce risk, even stopping immunosuppression after regeneration has reached the distal suture line rather than before recovery of end-organ connections. In the pediatric population, the increased disease burden and increased potential for nerve regeneration as well as the frequent availability of a living related donor make allografts all the more attractive as solutions to nerve reconstructive problems. Nevertheless, the risks of immunosuppression must not be underemphasized, and they deserve more attention in the current nerve transplantation literature.

The authors report on a child who, at the age of 1 year, received a nerve allograft from a living related donor who was positive for Epstein–Barr virus (EBV). The child quickly developed a symptomatic EBV infection concurrent with immunosuppressant drug therapy. The immunosuppression regimen was stopped prematurely, and the patient suffered only a short illness, but the EBV infection could have developed into a life-threatening posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). The patient is consequently predisposed to develop PTLD and will have to be monitored for the rest of his life. This case highlights the importance of considering the potentially fatal risks associated with this elective procedure. Future studies are needed to quantify and minimize this complication. Nevertheless, it should be weighed against the potential functional benefit from using nerve allografts.

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Torpon Vathana, Tim H. J. Nijhuis, Patricia F. Friedrich, Allen T. Bishop and Alexander Y. Shin

Object

Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) is an enzyme synthesized within the body of a motor neuron whose role is to form the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Quantification of ChAT levels in motor or mixed nerves has been proposed to provide information regarding the viability of a proximal nerve stump for motor neurotization following brachial plexus injury. To do so requires information regarding normal ChAT levels and those in injured nerves, as well as the correlation of ChAT level determined at surgery with eventual motor recovery. The purpose of this study was to determine ChAT activity in the normal and injured sciatic/peroneal nerve in a rat model, evaluate the correlation between ChAT and motor recovery, find the relationship between ChAT activity and isometric muscle force, and elucidate the parallel between ChAT activity and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity.

Methods

Sixty animals were divided into 3 groups. The sciatic nerves in Group 1 were transected without repair. Nerves in Group 2 were transected and repaired. Nerves in Group 3 sustained a crush injury followed by transection and reconstruction. All animals were allowed 12 weeks of recovery followed by evaluation of ChAT levels in the peroneal nerve, correlated with measures of maximal isometric tibialis anterior muscle force and muscle weight (the operated side normalized to the control side). Karnovsky AChE staining of peroneal nerve segments was also compared with radiochemical assay of ChAT activity in the same nerve.

Results

A significant difference in the tibialis anterior isometric tetanic force and the tibialis anterior muscle weight index (TAMI) was noted between Group 1 and Groups 2 and 3 (p < 0.0001); no significant difference was found comparing Group 2 with Group 3. The correlation between the force measurement and the TAMI was 0.382. Both AChE measurement and ChAT activity demonstrated significantly fewer fibers in the operated nerve compared with the contralateral nerve. Intergroup variability could also be illustrated using these tests. The correlation coefficient between the isometric tetanic force measurement and the ChAT analysis in Groups 1 and 2 was 0.468. The correlation for the AChE staining and the isometric tetanic force measurement was 0.111. The correlation between the TAMI and the ChAT levels was 0.773. The correlation between the TAMI and the AChE-stained fibers was 0.640. Correlating AChE staining to the ChAT analysis produced a correlation of 0.712.

Conclusions

The great variability in all groups and weak correlations to the functional muscle assessments and the ChAT radiochemical assay made this technique an unreliable method of determining motor nerve viability.

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Liselotte F. Bulstra, Nadia Rbia, Michelle F. Kircher, Robert J. Spinner, Allen T. Bishop and Alexander Y. Shin

Despite continuous improvement and expansion of reconstructive options for traumatic brachial plexus injury, options to reinnervate the triceps muscle remain somewhat sparse. This study describes a novel option, using a spinal accessory nerve transfer to the long head of the triceps muscle with an intervening autologous nerve graft. The resulting quality of elbow extension and factors that influence outcome are discussed.