Journal of Neurosurgery, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVEThe object of this study was to assess the advantages and disadvantages of early nerve repair within 2 weeks following adult traumatic brachial plexus injury (ATBPI).METHODSFrom 2009 onwards, the authors have strived to repair as early as possible extended C-5 to C-8 or T-1 lesions or complete loss of C-5 to C-6 or C-7 function in patients in whom there was clinical and radiological suspicion of root avulsion. Among a group of 36 patients surgically treated in the period between 2009 and 2011, surgical findings in those who had undergone treatment within 2 weeks after trauma were retrospectively compared with results in those who had undergone delayed treatment. The result of biceps muscle reanimation was the primary outcome measure.RESULTSFive of the 36 patients were referred within 2 weeks after trauma and were eligible for early surgery. Nerve ruptures and/or avulsions were found in all early cases of surgery. The advantages of early surgery are as follows: no scar formation, easy anatomical identification, and gap length reduction. Disadvantages include less-clear demarcation of vital nerve tissue and unfamiliarity with the interpretation of frozen-section examination findings. All 5 early-treatment patients recovered a biceps force rated Medical Research Council grade 4.CONCLUSIONSPreliminary results of nerve repair within 2 weeks of ATBPI are encouraging, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The authors propose a decision algorithm to select patients eligible for early surgery. Referral standards for patients with ATBPI must be adapted to enable early surgery.