Nerve Transfer Surgery for Penetrating Upper Extremity Injuries

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Perm J


CONTEXT: Nerve transfer surgery is an option for repair of penetrating injuries of the upper extremity. In the right setting, it has advantages over tendon transfers and nerve grafting.

OBJECTIVE: To review our experience since 2006 of nerve transfer surgery in the upper extremities.

DESIGN: We included cases performed to repair penetrating trauma within three months of injury with at least three years' follow-up.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Preoperative and postoperative muscle strength of the affected extremity.

RESULTS: All 16 patients were males aged 16 to 43 years. Six patients underwent nerve transfer surgery because of elbow flexion; 5, finger extension; 3, finger flexion; and 2, wrist pronation. Nine patients (56%) had associated vascular injury, and 4 (25%) had fractures. Average follow-up was 6 years. No perioperative complications occurred. Patients had a mean of 3.7 operations after the initial trauma. All patients received physical therapy. All patients improved from 0 of 5 muscle strength preoperatively to a mean of 3.8 (range = 2/5 to 5/5) within 1 year after surgery. In all cases, strength was maintained, and 8 (50%) had continued improvement after Year 1. Ten (63%) returned to their previous employment level. Mean Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand score improved from 68 to 83 postoperatively.

CONCLUSION: Nerve transfer is a safe, effective technique for correcting penetrating trauma-related nerve injury. In appropriate patients it offers advantages over other techniques. Outcomes can be maintained long term, and many patients can return to their previous level of function.

Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Adult; Age Factors; Disability Evaluation; Humans; Male; Muscle Strength; Nerve Transfer; Postoperative Complications; Range of Motion, Articular; Retrospective Studies; Upper Extremity; Young Adult

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