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Jayme A. Bertelli and Marcos F. Ghizoni

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this paper was to report the authors' results with finger flexion restoration by nerve transfer in patients with tetraplegia.

METHODS

Surgery was performed for restoration of finger flexion in 17 upper limbs of 9 patients (8 male and 1 female) at a mean of 7.6 months (SD 4 months) after cervical spinal cord injury. The patients' mean age at the time of surgery was 28 years (SD 15 years). The motor level according to the ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) classification was C-5 in 4 upper limbs, C-6 in 10, and C-7 in 3.

In 3 upper limbs, the nerve to the brachialis was transferred to the anterior interosseous nerve (AIN), which was separated from the median nerve from the antecubital fossa to the midarm. In 5 upper limbs, the nerve to the brachialis was transferred to median nerve motor fascicles innervating finger flexion muscles in the midarm. In 4 upper limbs, the nerve to the brachioradialis was transferred to the AIN. In the remaining 5 upper limbs, the nerve to the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) was transferred to the AIN. Patients were followed for an average of 16 months (SD 6 months). At the final evaluation the range of finger flexion and strength were estimated by manual muscle testing according to the British Medical Research Council scale.

RESULTS

Restoration of finger flexion was observed in 4 of 8 upper limbs in which the nerve to the brachialis was used as a donor. The range of motion was incomplete in all 5 of these limbs, and the strength was M3 in 3 limbs and M4 in 1 limb. Proximal retrograde dissection of the AIN was associated with better outcomes than transfer of the nerve to the brachialis to median nerve motor fascicles in the arm. After the nerve to the brachioradialis was transferred to the AIN, incomplete finger flexion with M4 strength was restored in 1 limb; the remaining 3 limbs did not show any recovery. Full finger flexion with M4 strength was demonstrated in all 5 upper limbs in which the nerve to the ECRB was transferred to the AIN. No functional downgrading of elbow flexion or wrist extension strength was observed.

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with tetraplegia, finger flexion can be restored by nerve transfer. Nerve transfer using the nerve to the ECRB as the donor nerve produced better recovery of finger flexion in comparison with nerve transfer using the nerve to the brachialis or brachioradialis.

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Jayme A. Bertelli and Marcos F. Ghizoni

✓ Brachial plexus avulsion injuries are a clinical challenge. In recent experimental studies the authors have demonstrated the high degree of muscle reinnervation attained when a C-4 motor rootlet was directly connected to the musculocutaneous nerve. This degree of reinnervation was attributed to the good chance that a muscle fiber can be reinnervated by a motor fiber when the number of regenerating motor neurons is increased and when competitive sensory fibers are excluded from the process. The authors present the first clinical case in which this phenomenon has been observed. This 26-year-old man, who was involved in an automobile accident, presented with an upper brachial plexus avulsion, for which he underwent operation 4 months later. The axillary and suprascapular nerves were directly surgically connected to the motor rootlets of the C-7 contralateral root by using two cables of sural nerve graft. Two years postsurgery, the patient was able to perform shoulder abduction of 120° and hold an 800-g weight at 90°. These results are encouraging, and in selected patients motor rootlet transfer might prove to be a useful surgical strategy.

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Andrei F. Joaquim, Enrico Ghizoni, Marcos Juliano dos Santos, Marcelo Gomes C. Valadares, Felipe Soares da Silva and Helder Tedeschi

OBJECT

Hemangioblastomas are rare, benign, highly vascularized tumors that can be found throughout the neuraxis but are mainly located in the cerebellum and in the spinal cord. Spinal hemangioblastomas can present with motor and sensory deficits, whose severity varies according to the size and location of the tumor. Resection is the best treatment option to avoid neurological deterioration. The authors report surgical results in the treatment of intramedullary hemangioblastomas and discuss the technical nuances important to achieving total resection without adding new deficits.

METHODS

A consecutive series of patients with intramedullary hemangioblastomas operated on between 2000 and 2014 by the senior author (H.T.) is presented. The functional scale proposed by McCormick was used to evaluate the patients' neurological status before and after surgery.

RESULTS

Sixteen patients were included in the study and underwent 17 surgeries. Follow-up was at least 6 months. Age at presentation varied from 13 to 58 years (mean 33.8 years). Ten patients (62.5%) were males and 6 patients (37.5%) were females. Seven (43.75%) of the 16 patients had associated von Hippel—Lindau syndrome, with hemangioblastomas also presenting in other locations. Three patients had multiple tumors in the same segment in the spinal cord, and 10 patients (62.5%) presented with cysts. According to the site of presentation, 11 tumors (68.75%) were localized at the cervical region (including the cervicomedullary junction) and 5 tumors (31.25%) at the thoracic level. Total resection was achieved in all cases, evidenced by postoperative MRI. Four patients had some functional worsening immediately after surgery. After 6 months, 1 patient had functional worsening compared with preoperative status, and 2 patients had clinical improvement. The majority of the patients remained clinically stable postoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS

Adequate knowledge of anatomy and the correct use of microsurgical techniques allowed total resection of these tumors, with minimal morbidity and maximum functional recovery. Outcome seems to be directly related to the neurological status before surgery.