Neurolysis alone as the treatment for neuroma-in-continuity with more than 50% conduction in infants with upper trunk brachial plexus birth palsy

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2014 Feb;13(2):229-37. doi: 10.3171/2013.10.PEDS1345. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


Object: The debate addressed in this article is that of surgical treatment methods for a neuroma-in-continuity. The authors of this study chose to test the hypothesis that more severe nerve injuries, as distinguished by < 50% conduction across a neuroma-in-continuity, could be treated with neuroma resection and grafting, whereas less severe nerve injuries, with > 50% conduction across the neuroma, could be treated with neurolysis alone.

Methods: The goal of this study was to compare preoperative and postoperative Active Movement Scale (AMS) scores in children with upper trunk brachial plexus birth injuries treated with neurolysis alone if the neuroma's conductivity was > 50% on intraoperative nerve testing. Seventeen patients (7 male, 10 female) met the criteria for inclusion in this study. Surgery was done when the patients were an average of 10 months old (range 6-19 months). The authors analyzed AMS scores from the preoperative assessment, 1-year postoperative follow-up visit, and subsequent follow-up assessment as close to 3 years after surgery as possible (referred to in this paper as > 2-year postoperative scores).

Results: Comparison of preoperative and 1-year follow-up data showed significant improvement in shoulder abduction, flexion, external rotation, and internal rotation; elbow flexion and supination; and wrist extension. Comparison of preoperative findings and results of assessment at > 2-year follow-up showed significant improvement in shoulder abduction, flexion, external rotation; and elbow flexion and supination. At final follow-up, useful function (AMS score of 6 or 7) was achieved for elbow flexion in 14 of 16 patients, shoulder flexion in 11 of 15 patients, shoulder abduction in 11 of 16 patients, and shoulder external rotation in 5 of 15 patients.

Conclusions: This report indicates that there is a subgroup of patients who can benefit clinically, with functional improvement of shoulder and elbow function, from treatment with neurolysis alone for upper trunk lesions demonstrating more than 50% conduction across the neuroma on intraoperative nerve testing. Patients with less than 50% conduction, indicating more severe disease, are treated with nerve resection and grafting in the authors' treatment algorithm.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Birth Injuries / physiopathology
  • Birth Injuries / surgery*
  • Brachial Plexus / injuries*
  • Brachial Plexus / physiopathology
  • Brachial Plexus / surgery*
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / etiology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / pathology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Microsurgery
  • Neural Conduction*
  • Neuroma / pathology
  • Neuroma / surgery*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Paralysis
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Treatment Outcome