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.
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.
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.
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.