Nerve Versus Tendon Transfer for Radial Nerve Paralysis Reconstruction.J Hand Surg Am. 2020 May; 45(5):418-426.JH
With radial nerve lesions, the results of nerve transfers and how they objectively compare with the outcomes of tendon transfers remain unstudied. We compared the results after nerve transfer in patients with less than 12 months since radial nerve injury with the results after tendon transfer in patients not eligible for nerve surgery because of longstanding paralysis (minimum of 15 months).
In 14 patients with radial nerve lesions incurred less than 12 months previously, we transferred the anterior interosseous nerve to the nerve of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), while the nerve to the flexor carpi radialis was transferred to the posterior interosseous nerve. In 13 patients with lesions of longer duration, we transferred the pronator teres tendon to the ECRB, the flexor carpi ulnaris tendon to the extensor digitorum communis, and the palmaris longus to the rerouted extensor pollicis longus (EPL) tendon. At a final evaluation, we measured passive and active range of motion (ROM) of the wrist, finger, and thumb and grasp strength.
In a comparison of wrist flexion-extension ROM and grasp strength, we observed better recovery in the nerve transfer than in the tendon transfer group. In the tendon transfer group, we observed limitations in wrist flexion in 9 of the 13 patients and permanent radial deviation in 5. Half of the patients in the tendon transfer group needed to flex their wrist to fully extend their fingers, whereas finger extension was possible with the wrist either extended or at neutral in all patients following nerve transfer. After nerve transfer, extension at the first carpometacarpal joint was restored in 11 of the 14 patients, whereas this occurred in just 4 of the 13 patients following tendon transfer. In both groups, we observed a 30° lag in thumb metacarpophalangeal extension, which reflects poor recovery of EPL function.
Overall, we observed better outcomes in those who underwent nerve transfer versus tendon transfer procedures. However, room still remains for improved thumb motion with both procedures.
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