Object: The authors conducted a retrospective study of 107 consecutive patients with 111 brachial plexus tumors surgically treated at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC).
Methods: During a 12-year period, from 1986 to 1998, 371 patients with lesions of the brachial plexus underwent surgery at LSUHSC. Among this group, 107 patients harbored 111 tumors of the brachial plexus. Neural sheath tumors were the most commonly found and included 33 neurofibromas (20 of which were associated with von Recklinghausen disease), 36 schwannomas, and 12 malignant neural sheath tumors. Of the non-neural sheath tumors, 13 were benign and 17 were malignant. Presenting symptoms included pain (59%), palpable mass (52%), paresthesias (30%), and paresis (29%). Anterior supraclavicular (82%) or posterior subscapular (18%) approaches were used to achieve gross-total (79%) or subtotal (21%) resection of tumor. The average follow-up period was 38.3 months or 3.2 years. Seventy percent of patients with benign neural sheath tumors became free from pain postoperatively or reported improvement in their preoperative pain status. Function remained intact or improved in 50% and remained stable postoperatively in another 20% of cases. Preservation of function was more likely in patients who presented intact and in those who had not undergone a previous attempted biopsy procedure or resection than in those in whom such manipulation had occurred.
Conclusions: Resection of most plexal tumors is technically feasible and associated with acceptable morbidity and mortality rates.