The reconstructive strategy for improving elbow function in late obstetric brachial plexus palsy

David Chwei Chin Chuang*, Yasunori Hattori, Hae Shya Ma, Hung Chi Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

53 Scopus citations


Children with previously untreated obstetric brachial plexus palsy frequently have abnormal elbow function because of motor recovery with aberrant reinnervation, or because of paresis or paralysis. From 1988 to 1997 (9-year period), 62 children with obstetric brachial plexus palsy with resulting elbow deformity underwent various methods of palliative reconstruction to improve elbow function. For motor recovery with aberrant reinnervation, release of aberrantly reinnervated antagonistic muscles and augmentation of paretic muscles form the basis of surgical intervention. The surgical procedures included triceps-to-biceps transfer, biceps-to-triceps transfer, brachialis-to-triceps transfer, or combined biceps- and brachialis-to-triceps transfer. Choice of procedures was individualized and randomly determined on the basis of the degree and pattern of aberrant reinnervation between elbow flexors and extensors. In patients' motor recovery with paresis or paralysis, persistently weak elbow flexion was salvaged with a functioning free muscle transplantation or Steindler's flexorplasty, or regional shoulder muscle transfer. In addition, patients with aberrant reinnervation between shoulder abductors and elbow flexors underwent anterior deltoid-to-biceps transfer with a fascia lata graft. All patients had a minimum follow-up of 2 years. Results are assessed and discussed and a reconstructive algorithm is recommended. In general, reconstruction of elbow extension should precede that of elbow flexion. Biceps-to-triceps transfer with preservation of an intact brachialis muscle, or brachialis-to-triceps transfer with preservation of an intact biceps, allows 50 percent of these patients to achieve acceptable elbow flexion and extension in a single-stage procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-126
Number of pages11
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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