Reconstruction of shoulder abduction by multiple nerve fascicle transfer through posterior approach

Gao-hong Ren, Run-guang Li, Da-yong Xiang, Bin Yu
Injury 2013, 44 (4): 492-7

PURPOSE: To evaluate the feasibility and clinical efficacy of multiple nerve fascicle transfer through posterior approach for reconstruction of shoulder abduction in patients with C5 or upper brachial plexus injury.

METHODS: 11 patients (aged between 17 and 56 years) with dysfunction of shoulder abduction post C5 or upper brachial plexus injury were recruited in this study. Among them, four out of 11 patients also had dysfunction of elbow flexion simultaneously. The duration from injury to the surgery ranged from 4 to 12 months, with an average of 6.7 months. The affected shoulder joints showed abduction, extension and elevation dysfunction, but the muscle strength of shoulder shrugging and elbow extension was graded to M4 or higher. Accessory nerve was transferred to the suprascapular nerve and triceps muscle was branched to the axillary nerve through posterior approach. Ulnar fascicle was transferred to the motor branches of biceps for the 4 patients involved with elbow flexion dysfunction.

RESULTS: Ten out of 11 cases were followed-up for 15-36 months. Neo-potential of deltoid and supraspinatus/infraspinatus was documented at 4-5 months post surgery. Shoulder abduction (and elbow flexion) was reanimated at 4-8 months post surgery. Significant improvement was observed at 15-36 months post surgery, shoulder abduction regained to 40-160° (mean: 92.5°), muscle strength of supraspinatus/infraspinatus and deltoid were graded to M3-M5 (mean: 4.0 and 4.1); 3 cases muscle strength of elbow flexion was graded from M4 to M5- (mean: 4.4) with 1 case loss. Shoulder shrugging of trapezius was graded to M5 in 5 cases, M5- in 2 cases, M4 in 2 cases and M3 in 1 case (mean: 4.5). All cases showed normal elbow extension and muscle strength of triceps (M5).

CONCLUSION: It is feasible to carry out multiple nerve fascicle transfers for early reconstruction of shoulder abduction by posterior approach. Patients who received this procedure achieved good functional recovery and their donor site morbidity/injury was minimal.

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