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Tene A. Cage, Neil G. Simon, Suzanne Bourque, Roger Noss, John W. Engstrom, Jeffrey W. Ralph and Michel Kliot

Traumatic peripheral nerve injury can lead to significant long-term disability for previously healthy persons. Damaged nerve trunks have been traditionally repaired using cable grafts, but nerve transfer or neurotization procedures have become increasingly popular because the axonal regrowth distances are much shorter. These techniques sacrifice the existing nerve pathway, so muscle reinnervation depends entirely on the success of the repair. Providing a supplemental source of axons from an adjacent intact nerve by using side-to-side anastomosis might reinnervate the target muscle without compromising the function of the donor nerve.

The authors report a case of biceps muscle reinnervation after side-to-side anastomosis of an intact median nerve to a damaged musculocutaneous nerve. The patient was a 34-year-old man who had sustained traumatic injury primarily to the right upper and middle trunks of the brachial plexus. At 9 months after the injury, because of persistent weakness, the severely damaged upper trunk of the brachial plexus was repaired with an end-to-end graft. When 8 months later biceps function had not recovered, the patient underwent side-to-side anastomosis of the intact median nerve to the adjacent distal musculocutaneous nerve via epineural windows. By 9 months after the second surgery, biceps muscle function had returned clinically and electrodiagnostically. Postoperative electromyographic and nerve conduction studies confirmed that the biceps muscle was being reinnervated partly by donor axons from the healthy median nerve and partly by the recovering musculocutaneous nerve.

This case demonstrates that side-to-side anastomosis of an intact median to an injured musculocutaneous nerve can provide dual reinnervation of the biceps muscle while minimizing injury to both donor and recipient nerves.

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Neil G. Simon, Tene Cage, Jared Narvid, Roger Noss, Cynthia Chin and Michel Kliot

The goals of the present study were to demonstrate the ability of high-resolution ultrasonography to delineate normal nerve fascicles within or around peripheral nerve sheath tumors (NSTs). A blinded examiner evaluated 2 patients with symptomatic upper limb NSTs with high-resolution ultrasonography performed in the perioperative suite using a portable ultrasonography system. Ultrasonographic examinations located the tumor mass and identified the normal nerve fascicles associated with the mass. The locations of normal nerve tissue were mapped and correlated with results of MR tractography, operative inspection, and intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring. The study demonstrated a close correlation between normal nerve fascicles identified by ultrasonography, MR tractography, and intraoperative electrophysiological mapping. In particular, ultrasonographic examinations accurately identified the surface regions of the tumor without overlying normal nerve tissue. These preliminary data suggest that preoperative ultrasonographic examinations may provide valuable information, supplementary to the information obtained from intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring. Identification of normal nerve tissue prior to surgery may provide additional information regarding the risk of iatrogenic nerve injury during percutaneous tumor biopsy or open resection of the tumor and may also aid in selecting the optimum surgical approach.

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Tene A. Cage, Esther L. Yuh, Stephanie W. Hou, Harjus Birk, Neil G. Simon, Roger Noss, Anuradha Rao, Cynthia T. Chin and Michel Kliot

OBJECT

The majority of growing and/or symptomatic peripheral nerve tumors are schwannomas and neurofibromas. They are almost always benign and can usually be resected while minimizing motor and sensory deficits if approached with the proper expertise and techniques. Intraoperative electrophysiological stimulation and recording techniques allow the surgeon to map the surface of the tumor in an effort to identify and thus avoid damaging functioning nerve fibers. Recently, MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques have permitted the visualization of axons, because of their anisotropic properties, in peripheral nerves. The object of this study was to compare the distribution of nerve fibers as revealed by direct electrical stimulation with that seen on preoperative MR DTI.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of patients with a peripheral nerve or nerve root tumor between March 2012 and January 2014. Diffusion tensor imaging and intraoperative data had been prospectively collected for patients with peripheral nerve tumors that were resected. Preoperative identification of the nerve fiber location in relation to the nerve tumor surface as seen on DTI studies was compared with the nerve fiber’s intraoperative localization using electrophysiological stimulation and recordings.

RESULTS

In 23 patients eligible for study there was good correlation between nerve fiber location on DTI and its anatomical location seen intraoperatively. Diffusion tensor imaging demonstrated the relationship of nerve fibers relative to the tumor with 95.7% sensitivity, 66.7% specificity, 75% positive predictive value, and 93.8% negative predictive value.

CONCLUSIONS

Preoperative DTI techniques are useful in helping the peripheral nerve surgeon to both determine the risks involved in resecting a nerve tumor and plan the safest surgical approach.