Sensory disturbances and pain complaints after brachial plexus root injury: a prospective study involving 150 adult patients

Jayme Augusto Bertelli, Marcos Flávio Ghizoni, Daniel Preissler Loure Iro Chaves
Microsurgery 2011, 31 (2): 93-7
After injury of the brachial plexus, sensory disturbance in the affected limb varies according to the extent of root involvement. The goal of this study was to match sensory assessments and pain complaints with findings on CT myelo scans and surgical observations. One hundred fifty patients with supraclavicular stretch injury of the brachial plexus were operated upon within an average of 5.4 months of trauma. Preoperatively, upper limb sensation was evaluated using Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments. Pain complaints were recorded for each patient. With lesions affecting the upper roots of the brachial plexus, hand sensation was largerly preserved. Sensory disturbances were identified over a longitudinal bundle on the lateral arm and forearm. In C8-T1 root injuries, diminished protective sensation was observed on the ulnar aspect of the hand. If the C7 root also was injured, sensation in the long finger was impaired. Eighty-four percent of our 64 patients with total palsy reported pain, versus just 47% of our 72 patients with upper type palsies. This rate dropped to 29% in the 14 patients with a lower-type palsy. C8 and T1, when injured, always were avulsed from the cord; when avulsion of these roots was the only nerve injury, pain was absent. Hand sensation was largely preserved in patients with partial injuries of the brachial plexus, particularly on the radial side. Even when T1 was the only preserved root, hand sensation was mostly spared. This indicates that overlapping of the dermatomal zones seems much more widespread than previously reported.

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