Infraclavicular brachial plexus stretch injury

Daniel H Kim, Judith A Murovic, Robert L Tiel, David G Kline
Neurosurgical Focus 2004 May 15, 16 (5): E4

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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