The timing of nerve recovery after nerve grafting in obstetrical brachial plexus palsy patients has not been well reported. One prior study reported a return to baseline function at 3 to 6 months postoperatively. However, there is a paucity of studies to corroborate this timing, and there have been no studies delineating the timeline to obtain clinically meaningful function.
OBPP patients with upper trunk neuromas-in-continuity who were treated with resection and sural nerve grafting at a single institution were studied. Time to return to baseline function was assessed by Active Movement Scale (AMS) scores preoperatively and postoperatively. Time to clinically meaningful function, defined as an AMS score of ≥6, was also assessed.
Eleven patients with isolated upper trunk neuromas-in-continuity underwent excision and reversed sural nerve grafting. Three of 11 patients also underwent spinal accessory to suprascapular nerve transfers. Average age at surgery was 9.8 ± 1.9 months. One patient did not have follow-up data and was excluded. Average follow-up was 37.1 ± 16.8 months. Average return to baseline AMS score was approximately 4 to 8 months for shoulder abduction, shoulder flexion, shoulder external rotation, elbow flexion, and forearm supination. Clinically meaningful function was obtained in most patients between 9 and 15 months. The remaining patients who did not achieve clinically meaningful function had all obtained scores of 5, which reflects less than one half normal range of motion against gravity.
Nerve recovery after surgical intervention in OBPP patients who undergo resection of an upper trunk neuroma-in-continuity and nerve grafting is more rapid than in adults but longer than previously reported in OBPP literature. This study provides an important data point in delineating the timeline of nerve recovery.