Over the last 16 years, 345 surgical reconstructions of the brachial plexus were performed using nerve grafting or neurotization techniques in the Neurosurgical Department at the Nordstadt Hospital, Hannover, Germany. Sixty-five patients underwent graft placement between the C-5 and C-6 root and the musculocutaneous nerve to restore the flexion of the arm. A retrospective study was conducted, including statistical evaluation of the following pre- and intraoperative parameters in 54 patients: 1) time interval between injury and surgery; 2) choice of the donor nerve (C-5 or C-6 root); and 3) length of the grafts used for repairs between the C-5 or C-6 root and the musculocutaneous nerve.
The postoperative follow-up interval ranged from 9 months to 14.6 years, with a mean ± standard deviation of 4.4 ± 3 years. Reinnervation of the biceps muscle was found in 61% of the patients. Comparison of the different preoperative time intervals (1-6 months, 7-12 months, and > 12 months) showed a significantly better outcome in those patients with a preoperative delay of less than 7 months (p < 0.05). Reinnervation of the musculocutaneous nerve was demonstrated in 76% of the patients who underwent surgery within the first 6 months postinjury, in 60% of the patients with a delay of between 6 and 12 months, and in only 25% of the patients who underwent surgery after 12 months. Comparison of the final outcome according to the root (C-5 or C-6) that was used for grafting the musculocutaneous nerve showed no statistical difference.
Furthermore, statistical analysis (regression test) of the length of the grafts between the donor (C-5 or C-6 root) nerve and the musculocutaneous nerve displayed an inverse relationship between the graft length and the postoperative outcome.
Together, these results provide additional information to enhance the functional outcome of brachial plexus surgery.