Cross-chest radial nerve transfer in brachial plexus injuries. Experimental and anatomical basis

J A Bertelli, M F Guizoni, A R Dos Santos, J B Calixto, H E Duarte
Chirurgie de la Main 1999, 18 (2): 122-30; discussion 131
Brachial plexus avulsion injuries are devastating injuries to the upper limb, and nerve transfer remains the only option in reconstruction. Despite the encouraging results concerning recovery of shoulder and elbow function, no option is available for treatment of the paralytic hand. In rats, we sectioned the radial nerve in the elbow region and transferred it across the chest to reinnervate the lesioned contralateral medial cord of the brachial plexus. Rats were then evaluated for motor and sensory recovery, electrophysiologically, behaviorally and morphologically. Forepaw functional recovery was estimated to be 90%. In cadavers, the radial nerve and profunda brachii artery were dissected. It was observed that the radial nerve vascularized by the profunda brachii artery was able to reach the contralateral brachial plexus distal to the shoulder region without nerve grafts. After sectioning the radial nerve, sensory loss is minimal and motor palsy can be easily restored by tendon transfers. The results of tendon transfer for radial nerve palsy are better than for any other nerve. Cross-chest radial nerve transfer might be of clinical interest in the reconstruction of hand function in entire injury to the brachial plexus.

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