Preliminary results of double nerve transfer to restore elbow flexion in upper type brachial plexus palsies

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2006 Mar;117(3):915-9. doi: 10.1097/01.prs.0000200628.15546.06.


Background: Restoration of elbow flexion is the main objective in the treatment of brachial plexus palsies affecting the upper roots. Transfer of the ulnar nerve to the nerve of the biceps has given satisfactory results, but the restored biceps is often weak in cases with avulsions of the C5-C6-C7 roots, in elderly patients, and after long preoperative delays. The authors decided to investigate a double nerve transfer: one or more fascicles of the ulnar nerve to the nerve to the biceps and a fascicle of the median nerve to the motor branch to the brachialis muscle.

Methods: The authors operated on 15 patients using this technique. The authors have follow-up of more than 6 months in 10 of them. Six had C5-C6 injuries, three had C5-C6-C7 palsies, and one had sustained an infraclavicular injury. The average age was 27.2 years. The average delay before surgery was 6.6 months. The average follow-up was 12.1 months.

Results: Grade 4 elbow flexion was restored in each of the 10 patients. In 10 cases, the patients were able to lift 1 to 5 kg. There was no secondary deficit in grip strength or sensation.

Conclusions: The results of this technique compare favorably with those of other methods. The percentage of success and the strength of elbow flexion restored were increased without any morbidity. This technique will probably reduce the need for secondary procedures to augment elbow flexion. The authors propose double nerve transfer as a standard procedure in C5-C6 and C5-C6-C7 injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / surgery*
  • Elbow Joint / physiopathology*
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Median Nerve / surgery
  • Nerve Transfer / methods*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Ulnar Nerve / surgery