JOURNAL ARTICLE

Neonatal brachial plexus palsy with neurotmesis of C5 and avulsion of C6: supraclavicular reconstruction strategies and outcome

M J A Malessy, W Pondaag
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2014 October 15, 96 (20): e174
25320204

BACKGROUND: Nerve reconstruction strategies for restoration of elbow flexion and shoulder function in patients with neonatal brachial plexus palsy with neurotmesis of C5 and avulsion of C6 are not well defined and the outcomes are unclear.

METHODS: From 1990 to 2008, nerve surgery was performed in 421 patients with neonatal brachial plexus palsy. This study focused on thirty-four infants who had a neurotmetic lesion of C5 and avulsion or intraforaminal neurotmesis of C6, irrespective of C7. The C8 and T1 functions were intact. Intraplexal transfer of C6 to C5 with direct coaptation was preferred for restoration of elbow flexion. The suprascapular nerve was reconnected either by extra-intraplexal transfer of the accessory nerve or by grafting from C5 to restore shoulder function. Additional grafts were attached from C5 to the C5 contribution of the posterior division of the superior trunk when technically possible.

RESULTS: Transfer of either the C6 anterior root filaments or the entire C6 nerve to C5 was performed in seventeen patients (group A) with direct coaptation in fifteen of them. Grafting from C5 to the anterior division of the superior trunk was performed in the remaining seventeen infants (group B). An accessory-to-suprascapular nerve transfer was applied in twenty-nine infants. The suprascapular nerve was reconnected in five patients by grafting from C5. It was possible to attach one, two, or three additional grafts from C5 to the posterior division of the superior trunk in twenty-one patients. All infants had biceps muscle recovery to a Medical Research Council (MRC) grade of ≥4, twenty-two (65%) of the thirty-four patients obtained Mallet grade-IV abduction, and eleven (32%) of the thirty-four obtained Mallet grade-IV external rotation.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with neonatal brachial plexus palsy who have neurotmesis of C5 and avulsion of C6, elbow flexion can be successfully restored with supraclavicular intraplexal reconstruction with use of C5 as the proximal outlet. However, shoulder function recovery following suprascapular nerve reinnervation and additional grafting from C5 to the posterior division of the superior trunk is less successful.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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