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Adult Brachial Plexus Reconstruction with the Level of Injury: Review and Personal Experience

Chuang, David Chwei-Chin M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: December 2009 - Volume 124 - Issue 6S - p e359-e369
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181bcf16c
Reconstructive Microsurgery Supplement: Original Articles: Microsurgery Supplement

Background: Adult brachial plexus reconstruction remains a dilemma to the reconstructive microsurgeon, especially when attempting to reconstruct cases of total root avulsion. A significant improvement in results has been achieved by a better understanding of various methods of reconstruction and prolonged postoperative rehabilitation.

Methods: This study was based on review of the literature and personal experience with 819 patients operated on between 1986 and 2003. To better understand these improved results, the author classified patients into four levels of injury: level 1, preganglionic root; level 2, postganglionic spinal nerve; level 3, preclavicular and retroclavicular; and level 4, infraclavicular brachial plexus injury. Neurolysis, nerve repair, nerve graft, vascularized ulnar nerve graft, nerve transfer, and functioning free-muscle transplantation were used for early reconstructions. Tendon transfer, functional or functioning muscle transfer, arthrodesis, or orthotics were used for late palliative reconstructions.

Results: Results accomplished by means of different reconstructive strategies with different levels of injury are summarily listed. Personal opinions regarding the controversial strategies are discussed.

Conclusion: Brachial plexus surgery, consisting of primary nerve and late palliative reconstruction, is now a worthy surgical pursuit that makes a useless limb useful.

Taipei-Linkou, Taiwan

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University.

Received for publication February 17, 2007; accepted March 4, 2009.

Disclosure: There were no grants or outside funds in support of this article.

David Chwei-Chin Chuang, M.D., Department of Plastic Surgery, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, 5, Fu-Hsing Street, Kuei-Shan, Taoyuan 33305, Taiwan,

©2009American Society of Plastic Surgeons