Cutaneous paresthesia after internal plate fixation of clavicle fractures and underlying anatomical observations

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Abstract

To assess the clinical and anatomical causes of cutaneous paresthesia after internal fixation of clavicle fractures.

This study included 135 patients who underwent internal fixation of clavicle fractures from May 2013 to June 2016 at the First and Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University. The incidence of postoperative supraclavicular nerve injury, the duration of numbness, and improvements after plate removal were retrospectively analyzed. Seven human cadaver specimens were subsequently dissected to analyze the supraclavicular nerve and its relationship to numbness.

Of the 135 patients who underwent internal fixation of clavicle fractures, 26 (19.3%) experienced postoperative cutaneous paresthesia, with 22 (16.3%) and 4 (2.8%) experiencing numbness and pain, respectively. The most intense numbness occurred during the first operative month. Of the 22 patients with numbness, 1 (4.5%), 1 (4.5%), and 20 (90.1%) patients reported mild, moderate, and severe numbness, respectively. Two patients described increased awareness of numbness when in contact with clothes, 2 were psychologically affected by numbness, and 20 (90.1%) reported reduced severity of numbness over time. At the last follow-up, numbness was found to persist in 2 (1.5%) patients. None of the patients was bothered by numbness. Cadaver dissection showed that the supraclavicular nerve emerged from the 1/2 posterior edge of the cervical sternocleidomastoid muscle and subsequently divided into 3 branches, with the lateral branch 2.26 ± 1.17 cm from the lateral margin of the acromion, the middle branch near the mid-clavicle, and the medial branch 2.03 ± 0.85 cm from the sternal lateral margin.

Cutaneous paresthesia is common following internal fixation of the clavicle. Anatomic analysis showed that the nerve could be easily injured during clavicle operation. Numbness improved in most patients, but persisted for up to 2 years and was even permanent in a few. Most patients considered numbness as an insignificant factor in their daily lives.

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