Axillary Nerve Reconstruction: Anterior-Posterior Exposure With Sural Nerve Cable Graft Pull-Through Technique

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Deltoid paralysis after axillary nerve injury results in limitations in shoulder function and stability. In the setting of an isolated axillary nerve injury with no clinical or electromyographic evidence of recovery that is within 6 to 9 months postinjury, the authors’ preferred technique to reinnervate the deltoid is to reconstruct the axillary nerve with sural nerve grafting. Intraoperative neuromuscular electrophysiology is critical to determine the continuity of the axillary nerve before proceeding with reconstruction. The majority of the time, both an anterior and posterior incision and dissection of the axillary nerve is required to adequately delineate the zone of injury. This also ensures that both proximally and distally, uninjured axillary nerve is present before graft inset and also facilitates the ability to perform a meticulous microsurgical inset of the nerve graft posteriorly. The nerve graft must be pulled through from posterior to anterior to span the zone of injury and reconstruct the axillary nerve. Careful infraclavicular brachial plexus dissection is necessary to prevent further injury to components of the brachial plexus in the setting of a scarred bed. Patients will require postoperative therapy to prevent limitations in shoulder range of motion secondary to postoperative stiffness. This paper presents a detailed surgical technique for axillary nerve reconstruction by an anterior-posterior approach with a pull-through technique of a sural nerve cable graft.

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