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The anconeus epitrochlearis muscle may protect against the development of cubital tunnel syndrome: a preliminary study

Thomas J. Wilson, R. Shane Tubbs, and Lynda J. S. Yang

OBJECTIVE

The authors hypothesized that when the anatomical variant of an anconeus epitrochlearis is present, the risk of developing cubital tunnel syndrome would be reduced by replacing the normal roof of the cubital tunnel (Osborne's ligament) with a more forgiving muscular structure, the anconeus epitrochlearis. The authors further hypothesized that when the presence of an anconeus epitrochlearis contributes to ulnar neuropathy, it would be secondary to muscular hypertrophy, thereby making it more likely to occur in the dominant arm. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to evaluate these hypotheses.

METHODS

This retrospective cohort study was performed by reviewing the records of all adult patients who underwent operative intervention for cubital tunnel syndrome between 2005 and 2014 as the experimental group and all asymptomatic patients in the medical literature who were part of a series reporting the prevalence of an anconeus epitrochlearis as the control group. The primary outcome of interest was the presence of an anconeus epitrochlearis in asymptomatic individuals versus patients with cubital tunnel syndrome.

RESULTS

During the study period, 168 patients underwent decompression of the ulnar nerve for cubital tunnel syndrome, and an anconeus epitrochlearis was found at surgery in 9 (5.4%) patients. The control group consisted of 634 asymptomatic patients from the medical literature, and an anconeus epitrochlearis was present in 98 (15.5%) of these patients. An anconeus epitrochlearis was present significantly less frequently in the symptomatic patients than in asymptomatic individuals (p < 0.001). Among patients undergoing surgical decompression, an anconeus epitrochlearis was associated with symptoms in the dominant arm (p = 0.037).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that an anconeus epitrochlearis was present significantly less often in patients with cubital tunnel syndrome than in asymptomatic controls. The mechanism of protection may be that this muscle decreases the rigidity of the entrance into the cubital tunnel. When an anconeus epitrochlearis does contribute to cubital tunnel syndrome, it is significantly more likely to occur in the dominant arm, possibly due to repetitive use and hypertrophy of the anconeus epitrochlearis. The presence of an anconeus epitrochlearis may be protective against the development of cubital tunnel syndrome, although this is a preliminary finding.

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Peripartum and neonatal factors associated with the persistence of neonatal brachial plexus palsy at 1 year: a review of 382 cases

Thomas J. Wilson, Kate W. C. Chang, Suneet P. Chauhan, and Lynda J. S. Yang

OBJECTIVE

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) occurs due to the stretching of the nerves of the brachial plexus before, during, or after delivery. NBPP can resolve spontaneously or become persistent. To determine if nerve surgery is indicated, predicting recovery is necessary but difficult. Historical attempts explored the association of recovery with only clinical and electrodiagnostic examinations. However, no data exist regarding the neonatal and peripartum factors associated with NBPP persistence.

METHODS

This retrospective cohort study involved all NBPP patients at the University of Michigan between 2005 and 2015. Peripartum and neonatal factors were assessed for their association with persistent NBPP at 1 year, as defined as the presence of musculoskeletal contractures or an active range of motion that deviated from normal by > 10° (shoulder, elbow, hand, and finger ranges of motion were recorded). Standard statistical methods were used.

RESULTS

Of 382 children with NBPP, 85% had persistent NBPP at 1 year. A wide range of neonatal and peripartum factors was explored. We found that cephalic presentation, induction or augmentation of labor, birth weight > 9 lbs, and the presence of Horner syndrome all significantly increased the odds of persistence at 1 year, while cesarean delivery and Narakas Grade I to II injury significantly reduced the odds of persistence.

CONCLUSIONS

Peripartum/neonatal factors were identified that significantly altered the odds of having persistent NBPP at 1 year. Combining these peripartum/neonatal factors with previously published clinical examination findings associated with persistence should allow the development of a prediction algorithm. The implementation of this algorithm may allow the earlier recognition of those cases likely to persist and thus enable earlier intervention, which may improve surgical outcomes.

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Evaluation and management of fibrofatty tumors of the extremities: case report

Thomas J. Wilson, Jacob R. Joseph, Jonathan R. Dillman, Amer Heider, and Lynda J. S. Yang

Patients presenting with enlarging fibrofatty masses in the extremities pose an interesting dilemma to clinicians, as the differential diagnosis in such cases ranges from benign to malignant, and from lesions optimally managed operatively to those managed nonoperatively. The differential diagnosis includes benign lipoma, liposarcoma, lipoblastoma, and fibrolipomatous hamartoma (lipomatosis) of the nerves. The authors present the case of a 14-year-old girl with an enlarging fibrofatty mass of the forearm, initially thought, based on diagnostic imaging, to be a fibrolipomatous hamartoma of the median nerve, but found to be a lipoblastoma without direct nerve involvement based on histopathological examination of the operative specimen. This case serves to illustrate the diagnostic predicament that can exist with such masses. The authors advocate the need to establish a tissue diagnosis while having a contingency plan for each of the diagnostic possibilities because the management of each lesion is markedly different. In this report, the authors consider the differential diagnosis of fibrofatty masses of the extremities that the peripheral nerve surgeon may encounter, and they highlight the significant differences in management strategies for each possible diagnosis.

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Effect of fascicle composition on ulnar to musculocutaneous nerve transfer (Oberlin transfer) in neonatal brachial plexus palsy

Brandon W. Smith, Nicholas J. Chulski, Ann A. Little, Kate W. C. Chang, and Lynda J. S. Yang

OBJECTIVE

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) continues to be a problematic occurrence impacting approximately 1.5 per 1000 live births in the United States, with 10%–40% of these infants experiencing permanent disability. These children lose elbow flexion, and one surgical option for recovering it is the Oberlin transfer. Published data support the use of the ulnar nerve fascicle that innervates the flexor carpi ulnaris as the donor nerve in adults, but no analogous published data exist for infants. This study investigated the association of ulnar nerve fascicle choice with functional elbow flexion outcome in NBPP.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective study of 13 cases in which infants underwent ulnar to musculocutaneous nerve transfer for NBPP at a single institution. They collected data on patient demographics, clinical characteristics, active range of motion (AROM), and intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) (using 4 ulnar nerve index muscles). Standard statistical analysis compared pre- and postoperative motor function improvement between specific fascicle transfer (1–2 muscles for either wrist flexion or hand intrinsics) and nonspecific fascicle transfer (> 2 muscles for wrist flexion and hand intrinsics) groups.

RESULTS

The patients’ average age at initial clinic visit was 2.9 months, and their average age at surgical intervention was 7.4 months. All NBPPs were unilateral; the majority of patients were female (61%), were Caucasian (69%), had right-sided NBPP (61%), and had Narakas grade I or II injuries (54%). IONM recordings for the fascicular dissection revealed a donor fascicle with nonspecific innervation in 6 (46%) infants and specific innervation in the remaining 7 (54%) patients. At 6-month follow-up, the AROM improvement in elbow flexion in adduction was 38° in the specific fascicle transfer group versus 36° in the nonspecific fascicle transfer group, with no statistically significant difference (p = 0.93).

CONCLUSIONS

Both specific and nonspecific fascicle transfers led to functional recovery, but that the composition of the donor fascicle had no impact on early outcomes. In young infants, ulnar nerve fascicular dissection places the ulnar nerve at risk for iatrogenic damage. The data from this study suggest that the use of any motor fascicle, specific or nonspecific, produces similar results and that the Oberlin transfer can be performed with less intrafascicular dissection, less time of surgical exposure, and less potential for donor site morbidity.

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Introduction: Peripheral nerve surgery

Mark A. Mahan, Wilson Z. Ray, Lynda J. S. Yang, and Robert J. Spinner

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Pilot study of intraoperative ultrasound-guided instrument placement in nerve transection surgery for peripheral nerve pain syndromes

P. Troy Henning, Thomas J. Wilson, Matthew Willsey, Jessin K. John, Miriana Popadich, and Lynda J. S. Yang

Surgical transection of sensory nerves in the treatment of intractable neuropathic pain is a commonly performed procedure. At times these cases can be particularly challenging when encountering obese patients, when targeting deeper nerves or those with a variable branching pattern, or in the case of repeat operations. In this case series, the authors describe their experience with ultrasound-guided surgical instrument placement during transection of a saphenous nerve in the region of prior vascular surgery in 1 patient and in the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve in 2 obese patients. The authors also describe this novel technique and provide pilot data that suggests ultrasound-assisted surgery may allow for complex cases to be completed in an expedited fashion through smaller incisions.

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Supraclavicular approach for neonatal brachial plexus palsy

Yamaan S. Saadeh, Whitney E. Muhlestein, Lynda J. S. Yang, and Brandon W. Smith

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy describes injury to the brachial plexus in the perinatal period, resulting in motor and sensory deficits of the upper arm. Nerve reconstruction, including graft repair and nerve transfers, can be used to restore function in patients whose injury does not respond to conservative management. Despite the availability of these techniques, 30%–40% of children have lifelong disability, reflecting a 10-fold underutilization of surgery. Here, the authors demonstrate a supraclavicular approach for brachial plexus exploration, as well as a spinal accessory to suprascapular nerve transfer for restoration of shoulder abduction and external rotation.

The video can be found here: https://stream.cadmore.media/r10.3171/2022.10.FOCVID22109

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A systematic review of evaluation methods for neonatal brachial plexus palsy

A review

Kate W. C. Chang, Denise Justice, Kevin C. Chung, and Lynda J. S. Yang

Object

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) affects 0.4–2.6 newborns per 1000 live births in the US. Many infants recover spontaneously, but for those without spontaneous recovery, nerve and/or secondary musculoskeletal reconstruction can restore function to the affected arm. This condition not only manifests in a paretic/paralyzed arm, but also affects the overall health and psychosocial condition of the children and their parents. Currently, measurement instruments for NBPP focus primarily on physical ability, with limited information regarding the effect of the disablement on activities of daily living and the child's psychosocial well-being. It is also difficult to assess and compare overall treatment efficacy among medical (conservative) or surgical management strategies without consistent use of evaluation instruments. The purpose of this study is to review the reported measurement evaluation methods for NBPP in an attempt to provide recommendations for future measurement usage and development.

Methods

The authors systematically reviewed the literature published between January 1980 and February 2012 using multiple databases to search the keywords “brachial plexus” and “obstetric” or “pediatrics” or “neonatal” or “congenital.” Original articles with primary patient outcomes were included in the data summary. Four types of evaluation methods (classification, diagnostics, physical assessment, and functional outcome) were distinguished among treatment management groups. Descriptive statistics and 1-way ANOVA were applied to compare the data summaries among specific groups.

Results

Of 2836 articles initially identified, 307 were included in the analysis, with 198 articles (9646 patients) reporting results after surgical treatment, 70 articles (4434 patients) reporting results after medical treatment, and 39 articles (4247 patients) reporting results after combined surgical and medical treatment. Among medical practitioners who treat NBPP, there was equivalence in usage of classification, diagnostic, and physical assessment tools (that focused on the Body Function and Structures measure of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health [ICF]). However, there was discordance in the functional outcome measures that focus on ICF levels of Activity and Participation. Of the 126 reported evaluation methods, only a few (the Active Movement Scale, Toronto Scale Score, Mallet Scale, Assisting Hand Assessment, and Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument) are specifically validated for evaluating the NBPP population.

Conclusions

In this review, the authors demonstrate disparities in the use of NBPP evaluation instruments in the current literature. Additionally, valid and reliable evaluation instruments specifically for the NBPP population are significantly lacking, manifesting in difficulties with evaluating the overall impact and effectiveness of clinical treatments in a consistent and comparative manner, extending across the various subspecialties that are involved in the treatment of patients with NBPP. The authors suggest that all ICF domains should be considered, and future efforts should include consideration of spontaneous (not practitioner-elicited) use of the affected arm in activities of daily living with attention to the psychosocial impact of the disablement.

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Macrovascular decompression of the median nerve for posttraumatic neuralgic limb pain

Case report

Aqueel Pabaney, Shawn L. Hervey-Jumper, Joseph Domino, Cormac O. Maher, and Lynda J. S. Yang

Neuropathic pain is rare in children, and few reports provide adequate guidelines for treatment. The authors describe the successful treatment of tardy neuropathic pain via macrovascular decompression in a 15-year-old boy who presented with progressive pain 11 years following trauma to the upper extremity that had required surgical repair of the brachial artery. Examination revealed mild chronic median and ulnar motor neuropathy as well as recent progressive lancinating pain and a Tinel sign at the prior scar. A soft tissue mass in the neurovascular bundle at the site of previous injury was noted on MRI. Surgical exploration demonstrated an altered anatomical relationship of the previously repaired brachial artery and the median nerve, resulting in pulsatile compression of the median nerve by the brachial artery. Neurolysis and decompression of the median nerve with physical separation from the brachial artery resulted in immediate pain relief.

This is the first report of macrovascular decompression of a major peripheral nerve with complete symptom resolution. Noninvasive imaging together with a thorough history and physical examination can support identification of this potential etiology of peripheral neuralgic pain. Recognition and treatment of this uncommon problem may yield improved outcomes for children with neuropathic pain.

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Lack of physician-patient communication as a key factor associated with malpractice litigation in neonatal brachial plexus palsy

Clinical article

Joseph Domino, Connie McGovern, Kate W. C. Chang, Noelle E. Carlozzi, and Lynda J. S. Yang

Object

Perinatal disorders are prone to malpractice litigation. Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) results from stretching the nerves in the perinatal period and may lead to paresis or paralysis and sensory loss in the affected arm. Little is known about the key factors associated with malpractice litigation by families of patients with NBPP and whether these factors reflect the practice environment or are inherent to the condition. In this study, the authors documented the percentage of families of NBPP patients at a specialty center that had filed a malpractice suit and described the key factors associated with that pursuit of legal action.

Methods

The families/caregivers of 51 patients with NBPP who had presented to the University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Brachial Plexus Program participated in this study. A qualitative research design was applied using both a questionnaire to examine psychosocial factors and a dynamic tool to measure health outcomes from the patient perspective via parent proxy (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System [PROMIS] assessment instruments). Statistical analysis included the Fisher exact test, chi-square test, and Student t-test. The study protocol was approved by the University of Michigan institutional review board.

Results

Forty-seven percent of the families pursued malpractice litigation. In comparing patient families that had pursued legal action with those that had not, significant differences were revealed in the perception that the sustained birth injury was unnecessary (p = 0.002), the information received in the perinatal period was inadequate (p = 0.003), family concerns were ignored in the perinatal period (p = 0.005), and family concerns were not adequately addressed (p < 0.001). Sixty-six percent of the families received external advice to pursue legal action. The PROMIS survey revealed significant group differences in depressive symptoms (p = 0.008), fatigue (p = 0.02), pain (p = 0.01), and anger (p = 0.004). In contrast, the extent of NBPP was not associated with malpractice litigation (p = 0.18). Age, sex, and race were not significantly different between litigation and nonlitigation groups.

Conclusions

Physician-controllable factors, such as communication in the perinatal period, are associated with malpractice litigation in NBPP. The perceived level of global disability may affect the pursuit of malpractice litigation, whereas the isolated extent of nerve root involvement and/or upper extremity dysfunction are not significant factors in pursuing litigation. Identifying and ameliorating these factors within the practice environment may decrease the animosity between families and health care providers and improve overall outcome for patients with NBPP.