Use of intercostal nerves for neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve in infants with birth-related brachial plexus palsy

H Kawabata, T Shibata, Y Matsui, N Yasui
Journal of Neurosurgery 2001, 94 (3): 386-91

OBJECT: The use of intercostal nerves (ICNs) for the neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve (MCN) in adult patients with traumatic brachial plexus palsy has been well described. However, its use for brachial plexus palsy in infants has rarely been reported. The authors surgically created 31 ICN-MCN communications for birth-related brachial plexus palsy and present the surgical results.

METHODS: Thirty-one neurotizations of the MCN, performed using ICNs, were conducted in 30 patients with birth-related brachial plexus palsy. In most cases other procedures were combined to reconstruct all upper-extremity function. The mean patient age at surgery was 5.8 months and the mean follow-up period was 5.2 years. Intercostal nerves were transected 1 cm distal to the mammary line and their stumps were transferred to the axilla, where they were coapted directly to the MCN. Two ICNs were used in 26 cases and three ICNs in five cases. The power of the biceps muscle of the arm was rated Grade M4 in 26 (84%) of 31 patients. In the 12 patients who underwent surgery when they were younger than 5 months of age, all exhibited a grade of M4 (100%) in their biceps muscle power. These results are better than those previously reported in adults.

CONCLUSIONS: Neurotization of the MCN by surgically connecting ICNs is a safe, reliable, and effective procedure for reconstruction of the brachial plexus in patients suffering from birth-related palsy.

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