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The influence of pre-surgical delay on functional outcome after reconstruction of brachial plexus injuries

Authors: S. Jivan, N. Kumar, M. Wiberg, S. Kay

References: Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, Volume 62, Issue 4, Pages 472-479

It has been proposed that delayed surgery after traumatic brachial plexus injury may adversely affect functional outcome.

In this study the influence of pre-surgical delay on the outcome of brachial plexus reconstruction was examined retrospectively. All patients who underwent surgery for traumatic brachial plexus injury in the Leeds Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery unit (UK), between 1987 and 2002, were identified.

Of the 110 patients identified, 27 had nerve grafting to the upper trunk to restore shoulder and biceps muscle function. Postoperative functional outcome was evaluated in this subgroup of patients. The 27 patients were divided into three groups: surgery <2 weeks (n=10), 2 weeks to 2 months (n=10) and >2 months (n=7) following injury. The efficacy of nerve grafting was correlated to pre- and postoperative biceps strength, which was assessed using the British Medical Research Council (MRC) Motor Grading Scale. In all patients the preoperative elbow grade was M0.

The results showed that in the <2 weeks, 2 weeks-2 months and >2 months delay groups, the mean postoperative elbow MRC grades were 4.2±SD 1.0, 3.8±SD 0.8 and 1.1±SD 1.7, respectively. Functionally better results were obtained with early surgery. When surgery was delayed beyond 2 months there was no significant difference between mean pre- and postoperative elbow grades.

We therefore believe that early exploration and reconstruction of adult traumatic brachial plexus injuries minimises the pernicious adverse effects of delay attributable to recent findings of the neurobiological effects of axonal damage.


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