Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVENeonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) continues to be a problematic occurrence impacting approximately 1.5 per 1000 live births in the United States, with 10%–40% of these infants experiencing permanent disability. These children lose elbow flexion, and one surgical option for recovering it is the Oberlin transfer. Published data support the use of the ulnar nerve fascicle that innervates the flexor carpi ulnaris as the donor nerve in adults, but no analogous published data exist for infants. This study investigated the association of ulnar nerve fascicle choice with functional elbow flexion outcome in NBPP.METHODSThe authors conducted a retrospective study of 13 cases in which infants underwent ulnar to musculocutaneous nerve transfer for NBPP at a single institution. They collected data on patient demographics, clinical characteristics, active range of motion (AROM), and intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) (using 4 ulnar nerve index muscles). Standard statistical analysis compared pre- and postoperative motor function improvement between specific fascicle transfer (1–2 muscles for either wrist flexion or hand intrinsics) and nonspecific fascicle transfer (> 2 muscles for wrist flexion and hand intrinsics) groups.RESULTSThe patients’ average age at initial clinic visit was 2.9 months, and their average age at surgical intervention was 7.4 months. All NBPPs were unilateral; the majority of patients were female (61%), were Caucasian (69%), had right-sided NBPP (61%), and had Narakas grade I or II injuries (54%). IONM recordings for the fascicular dissection revealed a donor fascicle with nonspecific innervation in 6 (46%) infants and specific innervation in the remaining 7 (54%) patients. At 6-month follow-up, the AROM improvement in elbow flexion in adduction was 38° in the specific fascicle transfer group versus 36° in the nonspecific fascicle transfer group, with no statistically significant difference (p = 0.93).CONCLUSIONSBoth specific and nonspecific fascicle transfers led to functional recovery, but that the composition of the donor fascicle had no impact on early outcomes. In young infants, ulnar nerve fascicular dissection places the ulnar nerve at risk for iatrogenic damage. The data from this study suggest that the use of any motor fascicle, specific or nonspecific, produces similar results and that the Oberlin transfer can be performed with less intrafascicular dissection, less time of surgical exposure, and less potential for donor site morbidity.