Radial to Axillary Nerve Transfers: A Combined Case Series.
PURPOSE: Loss of active shoulder abduction after brachial plexus or isolated axillary nerve injury is associated with a severe functional deficit. The purpose of this 2-center study was to retrospectively evaluate restoration of shoulder abduction after transfer of a radial nerve branch to the axillary nerve for patients after brachial plexus or axillary nerve injury. METHODS: Patients who underwent transfer of a radial nerve branch to the anterior branch of the axillary nerve between 2004 and 2014 were reviewed. A total of 27 patients with an average follow-up of 22 months were included. Outcome measures included pre- and postoperative shoulder abduction and triceps strength and active and passive shoulder range of motion. RESULTS: Shoulder abduction strength increased after surgery in 89% of patients. Average preoperative shoulder abduction was 12° compared with 114° after surgery. Twenty-two of 27 patients (81.5%) achieved at least M3 strength, with 17 of 27 patients (62.9%) achieving M4 strength. No differences were observed when subgroup analysis was performed for isolated nerve transfer versus multiple nerve transfer, mechanism of injury, injury level, branch of radial nerve transferred, or time from injury to surgery. A negative correlation was found comparing increasing age and both shoulder abduction strength and active shoulder abduction. No patients lost triceps strength after surgery. There were 4 patients who achieved no significant gain in shoulder abduction or deltoid strength and were deemed failures. No postoperative complications occurred. CONCLUSIONS: Transfer of a branch of the radial nerve to the anterior branch of the axillary nerve was successful in improving shoulder abduction strength and active shoulder motion in the majority of the patients with brachial plexus or isolated axillary nerve injury. TYPE OF STUDY/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic IV.
Desai, MJ; Daly, CA; Seiler, JG; Wray, WH; Ruch, DS; Leversedge, FJ
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