Anterior deltopectoral approach for axillary nerve neurotisation

J Terrence Jose Jerome
Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery 2012, 20 (1): 66-70

PURPOSE: To report outcome of axillary nerve neurotisation for brachial plexus injury through the anterior deltopectoral approach.

METHODS: Nine men aged 20 to 52 (mean, 27.8) years with brachial plexus injury underwent axillary nerve neurotisation through the anterior deltopectoral approach. Three of the patients had complete avulsion of C5-T1 nerve roots. The remaining 6 patients had brachial plexus injury of C5-C6 nerve roots, with associated subluxation of the glenohumeral joint, atrophy of the supraspinatus, deltoid and elbow flexors. They had no active shoulder abduction, external rotation, and elbow flexion. The pectoralis major and minor were cut and/or retracted to expose the underlying infraclavicular plexus. The axillary nerve was identified with respect to the available donor nerves (long head of triceps branch, thoracodorsal nerve, and medial pectoral nerve). In addition to the axillary nerve neurotisation, each patient had a spinal accessory nerve transferred to the suprascapular nerve for better shoulder animation.

RESULTS: Patients were followed up for 24 to 30 (mean, 26) months. In the 3 patients with C5-T1 nerve root injuries, the mean active abduction and external rotation were 63 and 20 degrees, respectively, whereas the mean abduction strength was M3 (motion against gravity). In the 6 patients with C5-C6 nerve root injuries, the mean active abduction and external rotation were 133 and 65 degrees, respectively, whereas the strength of the deltoids and triceps was M5 (normal) in all. In 4 patients with the pectoralis major cut and repaired, the muscle regained normal strength.

CONCLUSION: The anterior deltopectoral approach enabled easy access to all available donor nerves for axillary nerve neurotisation and achieved good outcomes.

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