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Madjid Samii, Gustavo A. Carvalho, Guido Nikkhah and Götz Penkert

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.

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Youichi Saitoh, Shun-ichiro Hirano, Amami Kato, Haruhiko Kishima, Masayuki Hirata, Kazumi Yamamoto and Toshiki Yoshimine

Object

The authors tested a modified motor cortex stimulation (MCS) protocol for the treatment of deafferentation pain in 15 patients: eight patients with poststroke pain, four with brachial plexus injury, two with phantom limb pain, and one with spinal cord injury.

Methods

Preoperative pharmacological tests were performed with phentolamine, lidocaine, ketamine, thiopental, morphine, and a placebo. In 12 patients we placed a 20– or 40–grid electrode in the subdural space to determine the best stimulation point for pain relief over a few weeks and therefore the optimum position for a permanent internal device. In four patients, the MCS devices were implanted in the interhemispheric fissure to reduce lower-extremity pain. In one patient, the MCS device was placed within the central sulcus, and a 20-grid electrode was placed on the brain surface. In two patients with pain extending from the upper extremity to the hyperbody, dual-electrode devices were implanted to drive two electrodes. In 10 of the 15 patients MCS-induced pain reduction was achieved (four with excellent, two with good, and four with fair alleviation of pain). The result of pharmacological testing indicated that patients with ketamine sensitivity seem to be good candidates for MCS.

Conclusions

Test stimulation with a subdural multigrid electrode was helpful in locating the best stimulation point for pain relief.

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Robert J. Spinner, Alexander Y. Shin and Allen T. Bishop

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Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol, William E. Krauss and Robert J. Spinner

Chronic subarachnoid hemorrhage may cause deposition of hemosiderin on the leptomeninges and subpial layers of the neuraxis, leading to superficial siderosis (SS). The symptoms and signs of SS are progressive and fatal. Exploration of potential sites responsible for intrathecal bleeding and subsequent hemosiderin deposition may prevent disease progression. A source of hemorrhage including dural pathological entities, tumors, and vascular lesions has been previously identified in as many as 50% of patients with SS. In this report, the authors present three patients in whom central nervous system SS developed decades after brachial plexus avulsion injury. They believe that the traumatic dural diverticula in these cases may be a potential source of bleeding. A better understanding of the pathophysiology of SS is important to develop more suitable therapies.

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Martijn J. A. Malessy, Godard C. W. de Ruiter, Kees S. de Boer and Ralph T. W. M. Thomeer

Object

The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the restoration of shoulder function by means of supra-scapular nerve neurotization in adult patients with proximal C-5 and C-6 lesions due to a severe brachial plexus traction injury (BPTI). The primary goal of brachial plexus reconstructive surgery was to restore the biceps muscle function and, secondarily, to reanimate shoulder function.

Methods

Suprascapular nerve neurotization was performed by grafting the C-5 nerve in 24 patients and by accessory or hypoglossal nerve transfer in 29 patients. Additional neurotization involving the axillary nerve could be performed in 18 patients.

Postoperative needle electromyography studies of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and deltoid muscles showed signs of reinnervation in most patients; however, active glenohumeral shoulder function recovery was poor. In nine (17%) of 53 patients supraspinatus muscle strength was Medical Research Council (MRC) Grade 3 or 4 and in four (8%) infraspinatus muscle power was Grade 3 or 4. In 18 patients in whom deltoid muscle reinnervation was attempted, MRC Grade 3 or 4 function was demonstrated in two (11%). In the overall group, eight patients (15%) exhibited glenohumeral abduction with a mean of 44 ± 17° (standard deviation [SD]) (median 45°) and four patients (8%) exhibited glenohumeral exorotation with a mean of 48 ± 24° (SD) (median 53°). In only three patients (6%) were both functions regained.

Conclusions

The reanimation of shoulder function in patients with proximal C-5 and C-6 BPTIs following supra-scapular nerve neurotization is disappointingly low.

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Martijn J. A. Malessy, Dick Bakker, Ad J. Dekker, J. Gert van Dijk and Ralph T. W. M. Thomeer

Object

Recent progress in the understanding of cerebral plastic changes that occur after an intercostal nerve (ICN)–musculocutaneous nerve (MCN) transfer motivated a study with functional magnetic resonance (fMR) imaging to map reorganization in the primary motor cortex.

Methods

Eleven patients with traumatic root avulsions of the brachial plexus were studied. Nine patients underwent ICN–MCN transfer to restore biceps function and two patients were studied prior to surgery. The biceps muscle recovered well in seven patients who had undergone surgery and remained paralytic in the other two patients. Maps of neural activity within the motor cortex were generated for both arms in each patient by using fMR imaging, and the active pixels were counted. The motor task consisted of biceps muscle contraction. Patients with a paralytic biceps were asked to contract this muscle virtually. The location and intensity of motor activation of the seven surgically treated arms that required good biceps muscle function were compared with those of the four arms with a paralytic biceps and with activity obtained in the contralateral hemisphere regulating the control arms.

Activity could be induced in the seven surgically treated patients whose biceps muscles had regained function and was localized within the primary motor area. In contrast, activity could not be induced in the four patients whose biceps muscles were paralytic. Neither the number of active pixels nor the mean value of their activations differed between the seven arms with good biceps function and control arms. The weighted center of gravity of the distribution of activity also did not appear to differ.

Conclusions

Reactivation of the neural input activity for volitional biceps control after ICN–MCN transfer, as reflected on fMR images, is induced by successful biceps muscle reinnervation. In addition, the restored input activity does not differ from the normal activity regulating biceps contraction and, therefore, has MCN acceptor qualities. After ICN–MCN transfer, cerebral activity cannot reach the biceps muscle following the normal nervous system pathway. The presence of a common input response between corticospinal neurons of the ICN donor and the MCN acceptor seems crucial to obtain a functional result after transfer. It may even be the case that a common input response between donor and acceptor needs to be present in all types of nerve transfer to become functionally effective.

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Kimberly A. Barrie, Scott P. Steinmann, Alexander Y. Shin, Robert J. Spinner and Allen T. Bishop

Object

The authors report the functional outcomes after functioning free muscle transfer (FFMT) for restoration of the upper-extremity movement after brachial plexus injury (BPI).

Methods

The authors conducted a retrospective review of 36 gracilis FFMT procedures performed in 27 patients with BPI between 1990 and 2000. Eighteen patients underwent a single gracilis FFMT procedure for restoration of either elbow flexion (17 cases) or finger flexion (one case). Nine patients underwent a double free muscle transfer for simultaneous restoration of elbow flexion and wrist extension (first muscle) and finger flexion (second muscle), combined with direct triceps neurotization. The results obtained in 29 cases of FFMT in which the follow-up period was 1 year are reported.

Neurotization of the donor muscle was performed using the musculocutaneous nerve (one case), spinal accessory nerve (12 cases), or multiple intercostal motor nerves (16 cases). Two second-stage muscle flaps failed secondary to vascular insufficiency. Mean electromyography-measured reinnervation time was 5 months. At a minimum follow-up period of 1 year, five muscles achieved less than or equal to Grade M2, eight Grade M3, four Grade M4, and 12 Grade M5. Transfer for combined elbow flexion and wrist extension compared with elbow flexion alone lowered the overall results for elbow flexion strength. Seventy-nine percent of the FFMTs for elbow flexion alone (single transfer) and 63% of similarly innervated muscles transferred for combined motion achieved at least Grade M4 elbow flexion strength.

Conclusions

Functioning free muscle transfer is a viable reconstructive option for restoration of upper-extremity function in the setting of severe BPI. It is possible to achieve good to excellent outcomes in terms of muscle grades with the simultaneous reconstruction of two functions by one FFMT, making restoration of basic hand function possible. More reliable results are obtained when a single FFMT is performed for a single function.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

Object

The authors report the surgery-related results obtained in 143 patients with stretch-induced infraclavicular brachial plexus injuries (BPIs). The entire series comprised 1019 operative BPIs managed at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center between 1968 and 1998.

Methods

Infraclavicular lesions represented 143 (28%) of the total of 509 stretch injuries involving both the infra-and supraclavicular brachial plexus, of which 366 (72%) were supraclavicular lesions. The operative approach is thoroughly outlined, and common patterns and combinations of involvement of nerves peculiar to the infraclavicular area are presented. Overall, the results of suture and graft repair were favorable for the lateral and posterior cord and their outflows. Repair of medial cord–median nerve also yielded acceptable results. The results of medial cord and medial cord–ulnar nerve, however, were poor. The incidence of associated injuries in the infraclavicular as opposed to the supraclavicular area, including shoulder dislocation and fracture and humeral fractures as well as vascular injuries including axillary artery injury was higher. Results of a literature search supported the finding that vascular injuries were increased due to the juxtaposition of vessels among the brachial plexus elements.

Conclusions

Thus, although less common than their supraclavicular counterpart, infraclavicular stretch injury lesions when they occur are technically more difficult to treat and are associated with a higher incidence of vascular and dislocation/fraction injuries. Favorable results were obtained for lateral and posterior cord lesions and their outflows, with acceptable outcome after medial cord–median nerve stretch injury repair. The results of medial cord and medial cord to ulnar nerve, however, were poor.

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Daniel H. Kim, Judith A. Murovic, Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

Object

The authors focus on injury mechanisms involved in 1019 operative brachial plexus injuries (BPIs) managed between 1968 and 1998 at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC).

Methods

Data regarding these mechanisms of injury were obtained via retrospective chart reviews of patients who had undergone operations at LSUHSC.

Five main mechanisms of injury to the brachial plexus occurred in the series. These included 509 stretch/contusion injuries (49%) with four patterns of presentation in 366 patients: 208 C5–T1 nerve injuries; 75 C5–7, 55 C5–6 injuries; and 28 involving the C8–T1 or C7–T1 nerves. Stretch/contusion injury was followed in frequency by gunshot wound (GSW), resulting in 118 injuries (12%). Most of the 293 involved plexus elements had some gross continuity when surgically exposed. Seventy-one lacerations involved the brachial plexus (7%), including 83 sharp lacerations caused by knives or glass; 61 blunt transections due to automobile metal, fan, and motor blades, chain saws, or animal bites.

Nontraumatic BPIs included 160 cases of thoracic outlet syndrome or 16% of the total of 1019 BPIs. There were 161 tumors (16%) of neural sheath origin including 55 solitary neurofibromas (34%), 32 neurofibromas associated with von Recklinghausen disease (20%), 54 schwannomas (34%), and 20 malignant nerve sheath tumors (20%) removed. Obstetrical BPI was not included in the original series; however, the current literature is reviewed in this paper.

Conclusions

The conclusion of this study is that the brachial plexus can be injured by multiple mechanisms of which stretch/contusion injury is the most frequently encountered, followed by GSWs.

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Rajiv Midha

Nerve transfer procedures are increasingly performed for repair of severe brachial plexus injury (BPI), in which the proximal spinal nerve roots have been avulsed from the spinal cord. The procedure essentially involves the coaption of a proximal foreign nerve to the distal denervated nerve to reinnervate the latter by the donated axons. Cortical plasticity appears to play an important physiological role in the functional recovery of the reinnervated muscles. The author describes the general principles governing the successful use of nerve transfers. One major goal of this literature review is to provide a comprehensive survey on the numerous intra- and extraplexal nerves that have been used in transfer procedures to repair the brachial plexus. Thus, an emphasis on clinical outcomes is provided throughout. The second major goal is to discuss the role of candidate nerves for transfers in the surgical management of the common severe brachial plexus problems encountered clinically. It is hoped that this review will provide the treating surgeon with an updated list, indications, and expected outcomes involving nerve transfer operations for severe BPIs.