Our experience with triceps nerve reconstruction in patients with brachial plexus injury

Julia K Terzis, Antonia Barmpitsioti
Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery: JPRAS 2012, 65 (5): 590-600
Although elbow extension is facilitated by gravity, triceps muscle provides elbow joint stability; in patients with brachial plexus injuries stable elbow is necessary for obtaining useful hand function. This study presents the senior author's experience with triceps nerve reconstruction and the functional results in patients with brachial plexus injuries. Outcomes were analyzed in relation to denervation time, severity score, length of the interposition nerve graft and donor nerves used. One hundred and sixty two patients with brachial plexus injury had triceps nerve neurotization and elbow extension recovery between 1978 and 2006. The mean patient's age was 25.45 ± 9.90 years and the mean denervation time was 16.90 ± 26.95 months. Two hundred and thirty two motor donors were used in 156 patients; 6 patients underwent neurolysis; 86 intercostal nerves were transferred in 41 patients. Interposition nerve grafts were used in 130 patients. Results were good or excellent in 31.65% of patients. The age of patients and the severity of the brachial plexus lesion are among the factors that significantly influenced functional results. Intraplexus motor donors are always preferable achieving better functional outcomes than extraplexus donors. Intercostal nerves and the posterior division of contralateral C7 proved preferred donors for elbow extension restoration in multiple avulsions. Although it is difficult to restore strong elbow extension, triceps nerve reconstruction is suggested in brachial plexus management, since it provides elbow stability. Satisfactory elbow extension strength was restored in young patients with high severity score.

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