JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Surgical Reconstruction of Isolated Upper Trunk Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries in the Presence of an Avulsed C5 or C6 Nerve Root.

BACKGROUND: Avulsion of either the C5 or C6 root with intact middle and lower trunks in brachial plexus birth injury is rare. In these cases, only 1 proximal root is available for intraplexal reconstruction. The purpose of the present study was to determine the outcomes of these patients when single-root reconstruction was balanced across the anterior and posterior elements of the upper trunk.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of prospectively collected data for patients with brachial plexus birth injury who underwent primary nerve reconstruction between 1993 and 2014. Patients were included who had isolated upper-trunk injuries with intact middle and lower trunks. The study group had avulsion of either the C5 or C6 root. The control group had neuroma-in-continuity or ruptures of the upper trunk. Outcomes were assessed with use of the Active Movement Scale and the Brachial Plexus Outcome Measure. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was utilized to evaluate changes across treatment.

RESULTS: Ten patients with brachial plexus birth injury were included in the avulsion cohort. Surgical reconstruction entailed neuroma resection and nerve grafting from the single available root balanced across all distal targets with or without spinal accessory-to-suprascapular nerve transfer. Significant improvements were observed across treatment for both the avulsion and control groups in terms of shoulder abduction, shoulder flexion, external rotation, elbow flexion, and supination. At a mean follow-up of 54.5 ± 8.8 months, patients in the avulsion group achieved Active Movement Scale scores of 6.8 ± 0.4 for elbow flexion and 6.5 ± 0.9 for shoulder flexion and abduction, with lesser recovery observed in external rotation (3.3 ± 2.8). All patients available for Brachial Plexus Outcome Measure assessments demonstrated functional movement.

CONCLUSIONS: In the setting of avulsion of 1 upper-trunk root, nerve reconstruction by grafting of the upper trunk from the other upper-trunk root provides improved movement, high Active Movement Scale scores, and satisfactory function according to the Brachial Plexus Outcome Measure. These data provide support for a strategy that ensures the entire upper trunk is adequately reconstructed in the setting of upper-trunk lesions.

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

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