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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1997 Aug;(341):134-42.

Split pectoralis major transfer for serratus anterior palsy.

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  • 1Shoulder Service, New York Orthopaedic Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, USA.


The results of split pectoralis major tendon transfer (sternal head) for symptomatic scapular winging because of palsy of the serratus anterior muscle were reviewed. Eleven consecutive patients, whose average age was 34 years, had a duration of preoperative symptoms ranging from 12 to 60 months. Ten patients had electromyograms documenting a long thoracic nerve injury. Using an inferior axillary incision, the tendon of the sternal head of the pectoralis major is mobilized and transferred to the inferior angle of the scapula. The tendon transfer is reinforced with autogenous fascia lata. After surgery, a scapulothoracic orthosis is worn for 6 weeks, and restriction of vigorous activities is recommended for 6 months. At an average followup of 41 months, 10 of 11 (91%) patients had satisfactory results with significant improvement in function and reduction of pain. Each of these 10 patients had improved scapular tracking with no scapular winging or mild, dynamic winging at latest followup. One patient had an unsatisfactory result with a full recurrence of scapular winging secondary to noncompliance with the postoperative physical therapy regimen. The split pectoralis major tendon transfer provides a reasonable substitute for a paralyzed serratus anterior muscle in scapular stabilization. Strict adherence to technical principles and postoperative rehabilitation reliably leads to satisfactory clinical results.

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