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J Hand Surg Am. 2019 Jul;44(7):578-587. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2019.02.004. Epub 2019 Mar 18.

Outcomes of Spinal Accessory-to-Suprascapular Nerve Transfers for Brachial Plexus Birth Injury.

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Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, affiliated with Cincinnati University, Cincinnati, OH; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba, affiliated with Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. Electronic address:
Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, affiliated with Cincinnati University, Cincinnati, OH.



The results of a spinal accessory nerve-to-suprascapular (SAN-SSN) nerve transfer for brachial plexus birth injuries (BPBIs) have thus far been presented only in limited case series. Our study evaluates the recovery of shoulder function of patients who underwent an SAN-SSN for BPBI as an isolated procedure or as part of a multinerve reconstruction (MNR) surgery.


We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of patients at a single institution who underwent an SAN-SSN after BPBI. Inclusion criteria were patients with both preoperative and a minimum 12-months postoperative active movement scale (AMS) scores. Patients for whom the primary surgery involved tendon transfers were excluded. The primary outcome measures were AMS scores for shoulder abduction, forward flexion, and external rotation and secondary outcomes included the need for further shoulder surgery to improve function.


Seventy-three patients met the inclusion criteria. Forty-three patients (58.9%) obtained functional shoulder motion (AMS ≥ 6) of at least 1 of 3 planes (abduction/flexion/external rotation) following surgery, with 13 patients (17.8%) achieving full recovery of 1 of these shoulder motions against gravity (AMS = 7). Fifty-six patients (76.7%) did not undergo subsequent tendon transfers or corrective osteotomies to augment shoulder function. The MNR procedures were performed in 46 patients (63%), of whom 45.7% gained a functional recovery. In 27 patients for whom SAN-SSN nerve transfer was conducted in isolation, 81.5% gained functional shoulder motion. However, isolated SAN-SSNs were conducted at a later age than MNR procedures (13.2 vs 4.8 months) and had higher preoperative AMS scores. The anterior and posterior approaches for SAN-SSN were both found to be effective when used for SAN-SSN in BPBI. When the follow-up duration cutoff was set to 3 years, the outcomes were found to be superior.


In 76.7% of the patients, SAN-SSN was able to recover function that was sufficient to prevent tendon transfers and corrective osteotomies. A cutoff of 3 postoperative years should be used as a benchmark for analyzing the results of this procedure.


Therapeutic IV.


Birth injury; Erb palsy; brachial plexus; nerve transfer


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