Subscapularis Slide Correction of the Shoulder Internal Rotation Contracture After Brachial Plexus Birth Injury: Technique and Outcomes

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Internal rotation contracture is the most common shoulder deformity in patients with brachial plexus birth injury. The purpose of this investigation is to describe the indications, technique, and results of the subscapularis slide procedure. The technique involves the release of the subscapularis muscle origin off the scapula, with preservation of anterior shoulder structures. A standard postoperative protocol is used in all patients and includes a modified shoulder spica with the shoulder held in 60 degrees of external rotation and 30 degrees of abduction, aggressive occupational and physical therapy, and subsequent shoulder manipulation under anesthesia with botulinum toxin injections as needed. Seventy-one patients at 2 institutions treated with subscapularis slide between 1997 and 2010, with minimum follow-up of 39.2 months, were identified. Patients were divided into 5 groups based on the index procedure performed: subscapularis slide alone (group 1); subscapularis slide with a simultaneous microsurgical reconstruction (group 2); primary microsurgical brachial plexus reconstruction followed later by a subscapularis slide (group 3); primary microsurgical brachial plexus reconstruction followed later by a subscapularis slide combined with tendon transfers for shoulder external rotation (group 4); and subscapularis slide with simultaneous tendon transfers, with no prior brachial plexus surgery (group 5). Full passive external rotation equivalent to the contralateral side was achieved in the operating room in all cases. No cases resulted in anterior instability or internal rotation deficit. Internal rotation contracture of the shoulder after brachial plexus birth injury can be effectively managed with the technique of subscapularis slide.

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