Intraforaminal repair of plexus spinal nerves by a posterior approach: an experimental study

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  • 1 Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
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✓ Many spinal nerve roots injured due to stretch or other types of lesions are not reparable. Some spinal nerves might be repaired if they could be exposed in their intraforaminal course. A posterior subscapular approach for a more lateral exposure of the brachial plexus was combined with a facetectomy to expose intraforaminal nerves in a series of Macaca rhesus monkeys. This approach exposed a 6- to 10-mm segment of spinal nerve not approachable by a more classic anterior operation. Sural grafts were placed from the dural exit of the spinal nerves to the cord level of the plexus. Nine surviving animals were followed for 36 to 54 months and observed for clinical evidence of return of function. In each animal at least one electromyogram (EMG) was performed. The plexus was then re-exposed and intraoperative nerve action potentials were recorded across graft sites. Evoked muscle action potential and cortical potentials were recorded in six animals.

Despite the proximal level of repair, adequate regeneration was shown by clinical, electrical, and histological studies. Functional return was best to the supraspinatus and biceps muscles and to wrist and finger flexors. Clinical recovery was present, but less effective, for deltoid, wrist, and finger extensors and intrinsic muscles of the hand, despite evidence on EMG of reinnervation. Recovery of the infraspinatus muscle was poor. Nerve action potentials could be recorded across each graft site. Reinnervational activity was recorded by EMG and evoked muscle action potential studies in most of the muscles studied, despite the persistence of some denervational changes 3 years or more after injury and repair. Histological studies confirmed the presence of a large number of axons of moderate size and myelination even at the forearm level.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: David G. Kline, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Louisiana State University Medical Center, 1542 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112–2822.
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