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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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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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Jort A. N. van Gent, Mirjam Datema, Justus L. Groen, Willem Pondaag, Job L. A. Eekhof, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

OBJECTIVE

Little is known about optimal treatment if neurolysis for ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow fails. The authors evaluated the clinical outcome of patients who underwent anterior subcutaneous transposition after failure of neurolysis of ulnar nerve entrapment (ASTAFNUE).

METHODS

A consecutive series of patients who underwent ASTAFNUE performed by a single surgeon between 2009 and 2014 was analyzed retrospectively. Preoperative and postoperative complaints in the following 3 clinical modalities were compared: pain and/or tingling, weakness, and numbness. Six-point satisfaction scores were determined on the basis of data from systematic telephonic surveys.

RESULTS

Twenty-six patients were included. The median age was 56 years (range 22–79 years). The median duration of complaints before ASTAFNUE was 23 months (range 8–78 months). The median interval between neurolysis and ASTAFNUE was 11 months (range 5–34 months). At presentation, 88% of the patients were experiencing pain and/or tingling, 46% had weakness, and 50% had numbness of the fourth and fifth fingers. Pain and/or tingling improved in 35%, motor function in 23%, and sensory disturbances in 19% of all the patients. Improvement in at least 1 of the 3 clinical modalities was found in 58%. However, a deterioration in 1 of the 3 modalities was noted in 46% of the patients. On the patient-satisfaction scale, 62% reported a good or excellent outcome. Patients with a good/excellent outcome were a median of 11 years younger than patients with a fair/poor outcome. No other factor was significantly related to satisfaction score.

CONCLUSIONS

A majority of the patients were satisfied after ASTAFNUE, even though their symptoms only partly resolved or even deteriorated. Older age is a risk factor for a poor outcome. Other factors that affect outcome might play a role, but they remain unidentified. One of these factors might be earlier surgical intervention. The modest results of ASTAFNUE should be mentioned when counseling patients after failure of neurolysis of ulnar nerve entrapment to manage their expectations. Patients, especially those who are elderly, might even consider not undergoing a secondary procedure. A randomized trial that includes a conservative treatment group and groups undergoing one of the several possible surgical procedures is needed to find the definitive answer for this clinical problem.

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Justus L. Groen, Willem Pondaag, and Martijn Malessy

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Willem Pondaag, Lieven P. A. J. van der Veken, Paul J. van Someren, J. Gert van Dijk, and Martijn J. A. Malessy

Object

A typical finding in supraclavicular exploration of infants with severe obstetric brachial plexus lesions (OBPLs) is a neuroma-in-continuity with the superior trunk and/or a root avulsion at C-5, C-6, or C-7. The operative strategy in these cases is determined by the intraoperative assessment of the severity of the lesion. Intraoperative nerve action potential (NAP) and evoked compound motor action potential (CMAP) recordings have been shown to be helpful diagnostic tools in adults, whereas their value in the intraoperative assessment of infants with OBPLs remains to be determined.

Methods

Intraoperative NAPs and CMAPs were systematically recorded from damaged and normal nerves of the upper brachial plexus in a consecutive series of 95 infants (mean age 175 days) with OBPLs. A total of 599 intraoperative NAP and 836 CMAP recordings were analyzed. The severity of the nerve lesions was graded as normal, axonotmesis, neurotmesis, or root avulsion, based on surgical, clinical, histological, and radiographic criteria.

Results

The correlation of NAP and CMAP recordings with the severity of the lesion was assessed. The specificity of an absent NAP or CMAP to predict a severe lesion (neurotmesis or avulsion) was > 0.9. However, the sensitivity of an absent NAP or CMAP for predicting a severe lesion was low (typically < 0.3). The severity of the nerve lesion was related to CMAP and NAP amplitudes. Cutoff points useful for intraoperative decision making could not be found to differentiate between lesion types in individual patients.

Conclusions

Intraoperative NAP and CMAP recordings do not assist in decision making in the surgical treatment of infants with OBPLs. The authors' findings in infants cannot be generalized to adults.

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Willem Pondaag and Martijn J. A. Malessy