Repair of brachial plexus lesions by end-to-side side-to-side grafting neurorrhaphy: experience based on 11 cases

Sherif M Amr, Ashraf N Moharram
Microsurgery 2005, 25 (2): 126-46
Eleven brachial plexus lesions were repaired using end-to-side side-to-side grafting neurorrhaphy in root ruptures, in phrenic and spinal accessory nerve neurotizations, in contralateral C7 neurotization, and in neurotization using intact interplexus roots or cords. The main aim was to approximate donor and recipient nerves and promote regeneration through them. Another indication was to augment the recipient nerve, when it had been neurotized or grafted to donors of dubious integrity, when it was not completely denervated, when it had been neurotized to a nerve with a suboptimal number of fibers, when it had been neurotized to distant donors delaying its regeneration, and when it had been neurotized to a donor supplying many recipients. In interplexus neurotization, the main indication was to preserve the integrity of the interplexus donors, as they were not sacrificeable. The principles of end-to-side neurorrhaphy were followed. The epineurium was removed. Axonal sprouting was induced by longitudinally slitting and partially transecting the donor and recipient nerves, by increasing the contact area between both of them and the nerve grafts, and by embedding the grafts into the split predegenerated injured nerve segments. Agonistic donors were used for root ruptures and for phrenic and spinal accessory neurotization, but not for contralateral C7 or interplexus neurotization. Single-donor single-recipient neurotization was successfully followed in phrenic neurotization of the suprascapular (3 cases) and axillary (1 case) nerves, spinal accessory neurotization of the suprascapular nerve (1 case), and dorsal part of contralateral C7 neurotization of the axillary nerve (2 cases). Apart from this, recipient augmentation necessitated many donor to single-recipient neurotizations. This was successfully performed using phrenic-interplexus root to suprascapular transfers (2 cases), phrenic-contralateral C7 to suprascapular transfer (1 case), and spinal accessory-interplexus root to musculocutaneous transfer (1 case). Both recipient augmentation and increasing the contact area between grafts and recipients necessitated single or multiple donor to many recipient neurotizations. This was applied in root ruptures (3 cases), with results comparable to those obtained in classical nerve-grafting techniques. It was also applied in ventral C7 transfer to the lateral or medial cords (3 cases) with functional recovery occurring in the biceps and pronator teres muscles, but not in dorsal C7 transfer to the axillary and radial nerves (3 cases) with functional recovery occurring in the deltoid and triceps muscles, and in whole C7 transfer to C5, 6, 7, 8T1 roots with functional recovery occurring in the deltoid (M4), biceps (M4), pronator teres (M4), and triceps (M3) (3 cases), and less so in the flexor carpi ulnaris and FDP (M3) (1 case) and the extensor digitorum longus (M3) (1 case). Contralateral C7 transfer to the lateral and posterior cords (4 cases) was followed by cocontractions that took 1 year to improve and that involved the rotator cuff, deltoid, biceps, and pronator teres (all agonists). Functional recovery in the triceps muscle was less than in the above muscles. Contralateral C7 transfer to C5-7 (1 case) was followed by cocontractions that took 1 year to resolve and that occurred between the deltoid, biceps, and flexor digitorum profundus. Interplexus root neurotization was done only in conjunction with other neurotization techniques, and so its role is difficult to judge. Though the same applies to regenerated lateral cord transfer to the posterior cord (2 cases), the successful results obtained from medial cord neurotization to the axillary, musculocutaneous, and radial nerves (1 case), and from ulnar and median nerve neurotization to the radial nerve (1 case), show that neurotization at the interplexus cord level may play a role in brachial plexus regeneration and may even be used to neurotize nerves and muscles distal to the elbow. The timing of repair was within 6 months after injury, except for 2 cases. In the first case, contralateral C7 transfer was successfully performed more than 1 year after injury. The second case was an obstetric palsy operated upon at age 8. Deterioration in motor power of the donor muscles that improved in 6 months was observed in 2 cases of interplexus neurotization at the cord level, because of looping the sural nerve grafts tightly around the donor nerves. Deterioration in donor-muscle motor power as a consequence of end-to-side neurorrhaphy was noted in the obstetric palsy case, when the flexor carpi radialis (donor) became grade 3 instead of grade 4. This was associated with cocontractions between it and the extensors. It took nearly 1 year to improve.

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