Spinal nerve root repair and reimplantation of avulsed ventral roots into the spinal cord after brachial plexus injury

T Carlstedt, P Anand, R Hallin, P V Misra, G Norén, T Seferlis
Journal of Neurosurgery 2000, 93 (2): 237-47

OBJECT: The authors review the first series of 10 cases in which injured intraspinal brachial plexus were surgically repaired. They describe the technique of spinal cord implantation or repair of ruptured nerve roots, as well as patient outcome.

METHODS: Spinal root repair/implantation was performed from 10 days to 9 months postinjury. There were nine male patients and one female patient. Postoperatively in most cases, regeneration of motor neurons from the spinal cord to denervated muscles could be demonstrated. The first signs of regeneration were noted approximately 9 to 12 months postoperatively. Useful function with muscle power of at least Medical Research Council Grade 3 occurred in three of 10 cases. Magnetic brain stimulation studies revealed a normal amplitude and latency from the cortex to reinnervated muscles on surgically treated and control sides. A certain degree of cocontraction between antagonistic muscles (for example, biceps-triceps) compromised function. With time there was a reduction of cocontractions, probably due to spinal cord plasticity. In these cases there was also, surprisingly, a return of sensory function, although the mechanism by which this occurred is uncertain. Sensory stimulation (thermal and mechanical) within the avulsed dermatomes was perceived abnormally and/or experienced at remote sites. There was some return of patients' sense of joint position.

CONCLUSIONS: A short time lag between the accident and the surgery was recognized as a significant factor for a successful outcome. Reimplantation of avulsed nerve roots may be combined with other procedures such as nerve transfers in severe cases of brachial plexus injury.

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