Functional outcome and quality of life after traumatic total brachial plexus injury treated by nerve transfer or single/double free muscle transfers: A COMPARATIVE STUDY

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Between 2002 and 2011, 81 patients with a traumatic total brachial plexus injury underwent reconstruction by double free muscle transfer (DFMT, 47 cases), single muscle transfer (SMT, 16 cases) or nerve transfers (NT, 18 cases).


They were evaluated for functional outcome and quality of life (QoL) using the Disability of Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire, both pre- and post-operatively. The three groups were compared and followed-up for at least 24 months.


The mean shoulder abduction and flexion were comparable in all groups, but external rotation was significantly better in the DFMT group as were range and quantitative power of elbow flexion. Patients who had undergone DFMT had reasonable total active finger movement and hook grip strength. All groups showed improvement in function at a level greater than a minimum clinically important difference. The DFMT group showed the greatest improvement.


Patients in the DFMT group had a better functional outcome and QoL recovery than those in the NT and SMT groups.


Take home message: Double free muscle transfer procedure is capable of restoring maximum function in patients of total brachial plexus palsy.

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