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Manfred Schmidt, Gregor Kasprian, Gabriele Amann, Dominik Duscher and Oskar C. Aszmann

OBJECT

Peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) are uncommon but bear a significant risk of malignancy. High-resolution MRI is the standard technique for characterizing PNSTs. However, planning the appropriate extent of resection and subsequent reconstructive strategies is highly dependent on the intraoperative findings because preoperative MRI evaluation can be insufficient. Diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) represents a recently developed advanced MRI technique that reveals the microstructure of tissues based on monitoring the random movement of water molecules. DTT has the potential to provide diagnostic insights beyond conventional MRI techniques due to its mapping of specific fibrillar nerve structures. Here, DTT was applied to evaluate PNSTs and to examine the usefulness of this method for the correct delineation of tumor and healthy nerve tissue and the value of this information in the preoperative planning of surgical interventions.

METHODS

In this prospective study, patients with the clinical symptoms of a PNST were investigated using DTT 3-Tesla MRI scans. Image data processing and tractography were performed using the FACT (fiber assessment by continuous tracking) algorithm and multiple-regions-of-interest approach. The surgical findings were then compared with the results of the DTT MRI scans. Preoperative fascicle visualization and the correlation with the intraoperative findings were graded.

RESULTS

In a 21-month period, 12 patients with PNSTs were investigated (7 female and 5 male patients with a mean age of 46.2 ± 19.2 years). All patients underwent surgical removal of the tumor. Schwannoma was the most common benign histopathological finding (n = 7), whereas 2 malignant lesions were detected. In 10 of 12 patients, good preoperative nerve fascicle visualization was achieved using DTT scans. In 9 of 10 patients with good preoperative fascicle visualization, good intraoperative correlation between the DTT scans and surgical anatomy was found.

CONCLUSIONS

DTT properly visualizes the peripheral nerve fascicles and their correct anatomical relation to PNST. DTT represents a promising new method for the preinterventional planning of nerve tumor resection.

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Johannes A. Mayer, Laura A. Hruby, Stefan Salminger, Gerd Bodner and Oskar C. Aszmann

OBJECTIVE

Spinal accessory nerve palsy is frequently caused by iatrogenic damage during neck surgery in the posterior triangle of the neck. Due to late presentation, treatment regularly necessitates nerve grafts, which often results in a poor outcome of trapezius function due to long regeneration distances. Here, the authors report a distal nerve transfer using fascicles of the upper trunk related to axillary nerve function for reinnervation of the trapezius muscle.

METHODS

Five cases are presented in which accessory nerve lesions were reconstructed using selective fascicular nerve transfers from the upper trunk of the brachial plexus. Outcomes were assessed at 20 ± 6 months (mean ± SD) after surgery, and active range of motion and pain levels using the visual analog scale were documented.

RESULTS

All 5 patients regained good to excellent trapezius function (3 patients had grade M5, 2 patients had grade M4). The mean active range of motion in shoulder abduction improved from 55° ± 18° before to 151° ± 37° after nerve reconstruction. In all patients, unrestricted shoulder arm movement was restored with loss of scapular winging when abducting the arm. Average pain levels decreased from 6.8 to 0.8 on the visual analog scale and subsided in 4 of 5 patients.

CONCLUSIONS

Restoration of spinal accessory nerve function with selective fascicle transfers related to axillary nerve function from the upper trunk of the brachial plexus is a good and intuitive option for patients who do not qualify for primary nerve repair or present with a spontaneous idiopathic palsy. This concept circumvents the problem of long regeneration distances with direct nerve repair and has the advantage of cognitive synergy to the target function of shoulder movement.

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Laura A. Hruby, Agnes Sturma, Johannes A. Mayer, Anna Pittermann, Stefan Salminger and Oskar C. Aszmann

OBJECTIVE

Global brachial plexus lesions with multiple root avulsions are among the most severe nerve injuries, leading to lifelong disability. Fortunately, in most cases primary and secondary reconstructions provide a stable shoulder and restore sufficient arm function. Restoration of biological hand function, however, remains a reconstructive goal that is difficult to reach. The recently introduced concept of bionic reconstruction overcomes biological limitations of classic reconstructive surgery to restore hand function by combining selective nerve and muscle transfers with elective amputation of the functionless hand and its replacement with a prosthetic device. The authors present their treatment algorithm for bionic hand reconstruction and report on the management and long-term functional outcomes of patients with global brachial plexopathies who have undergone this innovative treatment.

METHODS

Thirty-four patients with posttraumatic global brachial plexopathies leading to loss of hand function consulted the Center for Advanced Restoration of Extremity Function between 2011 and 2015. Of these patients, 16 (47%) qualified for bionic reconstruction due to lack of treatment alternatives. The treatment algorithm included progressive steps with the intent of improving the biotechnological interface to allow optimal prosthetic hand replacement. In 5 patients, final functional outcome measurements were obtained with the Action Arm Research Test (ARAT), the Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure (SHAP), and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire.

RESULTS

In all 5 patients who completed functional assessments, partial hand function was restored with bionic reconstruction. ARAT scores improved from 3.4 ± 4.3 to 25.4 ± 12.7 (p = 0.043; mean ± SD) and SHAP scores improved from 10.0 ± 1.6 to 55 ± 19.7 (p = 0.042). DASH scores decreased from 57.9 ± 20.6 to 32 ± 28.6 (p = 0.042), indicating decreased disability.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors present an algorithm for bionic reconstruction leading to useful hand function in patients who lack biological treatment alternatives for a stiff, functionless, and insensate hand resulting from global brachial plexopathies.

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Maria Hader, Matthias E. Sporer, Aidan D. Roche, Ewald Unger, Konstantin D. Bergmeister, Robert Wakolbinger and Oskar C. Aszmann

OBJECTIVE

Over the last decade, a number of authors have investigated the utility of different biological and synthetic matrices as alternatives to conventional nerve grafts. However, the autologous nerve graft remains the gold standard, even though it often involves using a pure sensory nerve to reconstruct a mixed or even a pure motor nerve. Furthermore, limited donor sites often necessitate a significant mismatch of needed nerve tissue, especially for large proximal nerve defects such as brachial plexus lesions. Here, the authors present a new technique that overcomes these problems: the fascicular shift procedure (FSP). A fascicular group of the nerve distal to the injury is harvested in a sufficient length to bridge the nerve defect.

METHODS

The method of fascicular shifting was tested at the sciatic nerve in 45 Lewis rats. In the experimental group, a 15-mm nerve defect was created and reconstructed with a fascicular group that was harvested directly distal to the gap. This group was compared with 1 negative control group (defect without reconstruction) and 3 positive control groups (sensory, motor, and mixed graft). After 12 weeks of nerve regeneration, outcome was evaluated using retrograde labeling, histomorphometric analysis, and muscle force analysis.

RESULTS

All reconstructed groups showed successful regeneration with various levels of function. The negative control group showed minimal force measurements that were of no functional value. The fascicular shift provided sufficient guidance to overcome nerve defects, had higher (p < 0.1) motor neuron counts (1958.75 ± 657.21) than the sensory graft (1263.50 ± 538.90), and was equal to motor grafts (1490.43 ± 794.80) and mixed grafts (1720.00 ± 866.421). This tendency of improved motor regeneration was confirmed in all analyses. The mixed graft group was compared with the experimental group to investigate the influence of the potential damage induced by the fascicular shift distal to the repair site. However, none of the analyses revealed an impairment of nerve regeneration for both the tibial and common peroneal index muscles.

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates that harvesting a transplant from the nerve segment distal to the injury site offers a mixed graft without causing additional donor-site morbidity. These grafts perform statistically better than a standard sensory graft in terms of motor recovery. The fascicular shift presents a novel method to reconstruct large proximal nerve defects, making it immensely attractive in brachial plexus reconstruction.