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Willem Pondaag and Martijn J. A. Malessy

Object

Infants with obstetric brachial plexus lesions (OBPLs) commonly undergo surgical repair. Outcome data have been documented extensively for shoulder and biceps function, but information on hand function following nerve repair is limited. Hand function is impaired in approximately 15% of patients. The authors present a surgical strategy aimed primarily at restoration of hand function and analyze their methods and outcome to determine specific factors affecting functional recovery.

Methods

Surgical strategy and outcome data were reviewed for 33 patients who underwent surgery for flail arm during a 10-year period. Nerve repair was performed at a mean age of 4.4 months. In 16 patients, the period of follow up (mean 50 months) was considered sufficiently long for final analysis.

Of these 16 patients, 13 (Group 1) had complete discontinuity of the C-7, C-8, and T-1 spinal nerves. In three patients (Group 2), the C-8 and/or T-1 nerve was left in place because of shortage of nerve grafts or limited availability of proximal donor stumps. Postoperatively, a Raimondi hand function grade of 3 or higher was attained by nine of the 13 patients in Group 1 (69%) and one of the three patients in Group 2 (33%).

Conclusions

Useful hand function was restored in 69% of the patients in the presented series in whom reanimation of the hand could be fully attributed to the surgical reconstruction. The authors conclude that restoration of hand function should be the first goal of nerve repair in infants with a flail arm caused by an OBPL, but that the optimal strategy for different types of lesion remains to be determined.

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Martijn J. A. Malessy and Ralph T. W. M. Thomeer

Object. Direct coaptation of intercostal nerves (ICNs) to the musculocutaneous (MC) nerve was performed to restore elbow flexion in 25 patients with brachial plexus root avulsions.

Methods. Seventy-five ICNs were transected as close as possible to the sternum to obtain sufficient length and then tunneled to the axilla and coapted to the MC nerve. Direct coaptation was achieved in 95% of ICNs, and functional elbow flexion was regained in 64% of the patients. The results were compared with several reported transfer techniques in which either an ICN or other donor nerves were used.

Conclusions. Direct coaptation was equally effective and more straightforward than transfers involving interposition of grafts. The use of alternative donors such as the accessory nerve carries inherent disadvantages compared with the use of ICNs, and the results are not substantially better. Direct ICN—MC nerve transfer is a valuable reconstructive procedure.

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Willem Pondaag, Justus L. Groen, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

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Willem Pondaag, Finn Y. van Driest, Justus L. Groen, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

OBJECTIVE

The object of this study was to assess the advantages and disadvantages of early nerve repair within 2 weeks following adult traumatic brachial plexus injury (ATBPI).

METHODS

From 2009 onwards, the authors have strived to repair as early as possible extended C-5 to C-8 or T-1 lesions or complete loss of C-5 to C-6 or C-7 function in patients in whom there was clinical and radiological suspicion of root avulsion. Among a group of 36 patients surgically treated in the period between 2009 and 2011, surgical findings in those who had undergone treatment within 2 weeks after trauma were retrospectively compared with results in those who had undergone delayed treatment. The result of biceps muscle reanimation was the primary outcome measure.

RESULTS

Five of the 36 patients were referred within 2 weeks after trauma and were eligible for early surgery. Nerve ruptures and/or avulsions were found in all early cases of surgery. The advantages of early surgery are as follows: no scar formation, easy anatomical identification, and gap length reduction. Disadvantages include less-clear demarcation of vital nerve tissue and unfamiliarity with the interpretation of frozen-section examination findings. All 5 early-treatment patients recovered a biceps force rated Medical Research Council grade 4.

CONCLUSIONS

Preliminary results of nerve repair within 2 weeks of ATBPI are encouraging, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The authors propose a decision algorithm to select patients eligible for early surgery. Referral standards for patients with ATBPI must be adapted to enable early surgery.

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Martijn J. A. Malessy, Job Eekhof, and Willem Pondaag

OBJECTIVE

The results of lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (LFCN) decompression to treat idiopathic meralgia paresthetica (iMP) vary widely. Techniques to decompress the LFCN differ, which may affect outcome, but in MP it is unknown to what extent. The authors present a new technique using dynamic decompression and discuss the outcomes.

METHODS

A retrospective cohort study was performed in a consecutive series of 19 cases. The goal of decompression was pain relief and recovery of sensation. The plane ventral to the LFCN was decompressed by cutting the fascia lata and the inferior aspect of the inguinal ligament. The plane dorsal to the LFCN was decompressed by cutting the fascia of the sartorius muscle. Subsequently, the thigh was brought in full range of flexion and extension/abduction. The authors identified and additionally cut fibers that tightened and caused compression at various locations of the LFCN during movement in all patients, referring to this technique as dynamic decompression. Postoperatively, an independent neurologist scored pain and sensation on a 4-point scale: completely resolved, improved, not changed, or worsened. Patients scored their remaining pain or sensory deficit as a percentage of the preoperative level. Statistical assessment was done using ANOVA to assess the association between outcome and duration of preoperative symptoms, BMI, and length of follow-up.

RESULTS

In 17 of the 19 cases (89%), the pain and/or paresthesia completely resolved. Patients in the remaining 2 cases (11%) experienced 70% and 80% reduction in pain. Sensation completely recovered in 13 of the 19 cases (69%). In 5 of the 19 cases (26%) sensation improved, but an area of hypesthesia remained. Four of these 5 patients indicated a sensory improvement of more than 75%, and the remaining patient had 50% improvement. Sensation remained unchanged in 1 case (5%) with persisting hypesthesia and mild hyperesthesia. There was no significant impact of preoperative symptom duration, BMI, and length of follow-up on postoperative outcome.

CONCLUSIONS

Dynamic decompression of the LFCN is an effective technique for the treatment of iMP. Most patients become completely pain free and sensation recovers considerably.

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David G. Kline and Leo Happel

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Godard C. W. de Ruiter, Robert J. Spinner, Joost Verhaagen, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

Misdirection of regenerating axons is one of the factors that can explain the limited results often found after nerve injury and repair. In the repair of mixed nerves innervating different distal targets (skin and muscle), misdirection may, for example, lead to motor axons projecting toward skin, and vice versa—that is, sensory axons projecting toward muscle. In the repair of motor nerves innervating different distal targets, misdirection may result in reinnervation of the wrong target muscle, which might function antagonistically. In sensory nerve repair, misdirection might give an increased perceptual territory. After median nerve repair, for example, this might lead to a dysfunctional hand.

Different factors may be involved in the misdirection of regenerating axons, and there may be various mechanisms that can later correct for misdirection. In this review the authors discuss these different factors and mechanisms that act along the pathway of the regenerating axon. The authors review recently developed evaluation methods that can be used to investigate the accuracy of regeneration after nerve injury and repair (including the use of transgenic fluorescent mice, retrograde tracing techniques, and motion analysis). In addition, the authors discuss new strategies that can improve in vivo guidance of regenerating axons (including physical guidance with multichannel nerve tubes and biological guidance accomplished using gene therapy).

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Martijn J. A. Malessy, Ralph T. W. M. Thomeer, and J. Gert van Dijk

Object. The goal of this study was to find which central nervous system (CNS) pathways are involved in volitional control over reinnervated biceps or pectoral muscles.

Methods. Intercostal nerves (ICNs) were coapted to the musculocutaneous nerve (MCN) or the medial pectoral nerve (MPN) in 23 patients with root avulsions of the brachial plexus to restore biceps or pectoral muscle function. The facilitatory effects of respiration and voluntary contraction on cortical motor-evoked potentials of biceps or pectoral muscles were used to study CNS control over the reinnervated muscles. The time course of the facilitatory effect of respiration and voluntary contraction differed significantly. In the end stage of nerve regeneration, the facilitatory effect of voluntary contraction was significantly larger than that of respiration, indicating that the CNS control network over the muscle comes to resemble that of the recipient nerve (MCN or MPN) rather than that of the donor nerve (ICN).

Conclusions. The strengthening of previously subthreshold synaptic connections in a CNS network connecting ICN to MCN or MPN neurons may underlie changing excitability.

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Kimberly K. Amrami, Michel Kliot, Martijn J. A. Malessy, and Robert J. Spinner