Object. Surgical therapy for traumatic brachial plexus lesions is still a great challenge in the field of peripheral nerve surgery. The aim of this study was to present the results of different surgical interventions in patients with this lesion type.
Methods. One hundred thirty-four patients with traumatic brachial plexus lesions underwent surgery between January 1991 and September 1999. In more than 50% of the patients, injury was caused by a motorbike accident. Patients underwent surgery a mean of 6.3 months posttrauma. The following surgical techniques were applied: neurolysis for nerve lesions in continuity (27 cases), grafting for lesions in discontinuity (149 cases), and neurotization for root avulsions (67 cases). Sixty-five patients were evaluated for at least 30 months (mean follow up 42.1 months) after surgery.
Function was graded using the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center classification system. Only 2% of the patients had Grade 3 or better function preoperatively, increasing to 52% postoperatively. The effect of surgical measures on the functional results for different muscles were compared (supra- or infraspinatus, deltoid, biceps, and triceps muscles); the best results were obtained for biceps muscle function (57% of patients with Medical Research Council Grades M3–M5 function). Graft reconstruction yielded a better outcome than neurotization. Surgery within 5 months posttrauma clearly resulted in improved recovery of motor function compared with later interventions. Sural nerve grafts (monofascicular nerves) showed better results.
Conclusions. The results of neurosurgical interventions for brachial plexus lesions are satisfactory, especially when the operation is performed between 3 and 6 months after trauma.