Accessory nerve to suprascapular nerve transfer to restore shoulder exorotation in otherwise spontaneously recovered obstetric brachial plexus lesions

Willem J. R. van Ouwerkerk, Bernard M. J. Uitdehaag, Rob L. M. Strijers, Frans Nollet, Kurt Holl, Franz A. Fellner, W. Peter Vandertop, Nollet Frans

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A systematic follow-up of infants with an obstetric brachial plexus lesion of C5 and C6 or the superior trunk showing satisfactory spontaneous recovery of shoulder and arm function except for voluntary shoulder exorotation, who underwent an accessory to suprascapular nerve transfer to improve active shoulder exorotation, to evaluate for functional recovery, and to understand why other superior trunk functions spontaneously recover in contrast with exorotation. In 54 children, an accessory to suprascapular nerve transfer was performed as a separate procedure at a mean age of 21.7 months. Follow-up examinations were conducted before and at 4, 8, 12, 24, and 36 months after operation and included scoring of shoulder exorotation and abduction. Intraoperative reactivity of spinatus muscles and additional needle electromyographic responses were registered after electrostimulation of suprascapular nerves. Histological examination of suprascapular nerves was performed. Trophy of spinatus muscles was followed by magnetic resonance imaging scanning. The influence of perinatal variables and results of ancillary investigations on outcome were evaluated. Exorotation improved from 70 degrees to functional levels exceeding 0 degrees, except in two patients. Abduction improved in 27 patients, with results of 90 degrees or more in 49 patients. Electromyography at 4 months did not show signs of denervation in 39 out of 40 patients. Intraoperative electrostimulation of suprascapular nerves elicited spinatus muscle reaction in 44 out of 48 patients. Histology of suprascapular nerves was normal. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging scans showed only minor wasting of spinatus muscles in contrast with major wasting after successful operations. An accessory to suprascapular nerve transfer is effective to restore active exorotation when performed as the primary or a separate secondary procedure in children older than 10 months of age. Contradictory spontaneous recovery of other superior trunk functions and integrity of suprascapular nerves, as well as absence of spinatus muscle wasting direct to central nervous changes are possible main causes for the lack of exorotation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-67; discussion 867-9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Accessory Nerve/transplantation
  • Birth Injuries/complications
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies/diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal/pathology
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Joint/innervation
  • Shoulder/pathology

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