OBJECTIVE: This prospective study presents repair results after missile-caused ulnar nerve ruptures as well as factors influencing the outcomes.
METHODS: Between 1991 and 1994, 128 casualties with missile-caused complete ulnar nerve injury were managed surgically in the Neurosurgical Department of the Belgrade Military Medical Academy. At least 4 years after surgery, we scored sensorimotor recovery, neurophysiological recovery, and patient judgment of the outcome. On the basis of the total score, we defined the final outcome as poor, insufficient, good, or excellent. The last two outcomes were considered to be successful.
RESULTS: A successful outcome was obtained in 0% of high-level, 33.8% of intermediate-level, and 77.3% of low-level repairs (P < 0.001). On average, the nerve defect, preoperative interval, and patient age were lower for patients with a successful outcome than for those with an unsuccessful outcome (P = 0.004, P = 0.032, and P = 0.003, respectively). Worsening of the outcome was related to nerve defect longer than 4.5 cm, preoperative interval longer than 5.5 months, and age older than 23 years (P = 0.002, P = 0.034, and P = 0.023, respectively). A successful outcome occurred in 48.8% of patients repaired with direct suture and in 41.2% of patients repaired with a nerve graft (P > 0.05). A successful outcome also occurred 22.2% of combined ulnar-median nerve repairs and in 49.5% of isolated ulnar nerve repairs (P = 0.011). Repair level (P < 0.001), preoperative interval (P = 0.001), length of the nerve defect (P < 0.001), and associated median nerve rupture (P = 0.028) were independent predictors of a successful outcome.
CONCLUSION: The outcome of ulnar nerve repair depends significantly on the repair level, preoperative interval, associated median nerve injury, length of the nerve defect, and age of the patient. High-level ulnar nerve repair is probably useless if performed in the classic manner.