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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Clinical and neuropathological study about the neurotization of the suprascapular nerve in obstetric brachial plexus lesions

Dominique Schaakxs1*, Jörg Bahm2, Bernd Sellhaus1 and Joachim Weis1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Neuropathology, Klinikum RWTH Aachen, Germany

2 Euregio Reconstructive Microsurgery Unit, Franziskushospital Aachen, Germany

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Journal of Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury 2009, 4:15  doi:10.1186/1749-7221-4-15

Published: 11 September 2009



The lack of recovery of active external rotation of the shoulder is an important problem in children suffering from brachial plexus lesions involving the suprascapular nerve. The accessory nerve neurotization to the suprascapular nerve is a standard procedure, performed to improve shoulder motion in patients with brachial plexus palsy.


We operated on 65 patients with obstetric brachial plexus palsy (OBPP), aged 5-35 months (average: 19 months). We assessed the recovery of passive and active external rotation with the arm in abduction and in adduction. We also looked at the influence of the restoration of the muscular balance between the internal and the external rotators on the development of a gleno-humeral joint dysplasia. Intraoperatively, suprascapular nerve samples were taken from 13 patients and were analyzed histologically.


Most patients (71.5%) showed good recovery of the active external rotation in abduction (60°-90°). Better results were obtained for the external rotation with the arm in abduction compared to adduction, and for patients having only undergone the neurotization procedure compared to patients having had complete plexus reconstruction. The neurotization operation has a positive influence on the glenohumeral joint: 7 patients with clinical signs of dysplasia before the reconstructive operation did not show any sign of dysplasia in the postoperative follow-up.


The neurotization procedure helps to recover the active external rotation in the shoulder joint and has a good prevention influence on the dysplasia in our sample. The nerve quality measured using histopathology also seems to have a positive impact on the clinical results.