Outcome following spinal accessory to suprascapular (spinoscapular) nerve transfer in infants with brachial plexus birth injuries

David E. Ruchelsman, Lorna E. Ramos, Israel Alfonso, Andrew E. Price, Agatha Grossman, John A.I. Grossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the value of distal spinal accessory nerve (SAN) transfer to the suprascapular nerve (SSN) in children with brachial plexus birth injuries in order to better define the application and outcome of this transfer in these infants. Over a 3-year period, 34 infants with brachial plexus injuries underwent transfer of the SAN to the SSN as part of the primary surgical reconstruction. Twenty-five patients (direct repair, n = 20; interposition graft, n = 5) achieved a minimum follow-up of 24 months. Fourteen children underwent plexus reconstruction with SAN-to-SSN transfer at less than 9 months of age, and 11 underwent surgical reconstruction at the age of 9 months or older. Mean age at the time of nerve transfer was 11.6 months (range, 5-30 months). At latest follow-up, active shoulder external rotation was measured in the arm abducted position and confirmed by review of videos. The Gilbert and Miami shoulder classification scores were utilized to report shoulder-specific functional outcomes. The effects of patient age at the time of nerve transfer and the use of interpositional nerve graft were analyzed. Overall mean active external rotation measured 69.6°; mean Gilbert score was 4.1 and the mean Miami score was 7.1, corresponding to overall good shoulder functional outcomes. Similar clinical and shoulder-specific functional outcomes were obtained in patients undergoing early (<9 months of age, n = 14) and late (>9 months of age, n = 11) SAN-to-SSN transfer and primary plexus reconstruction. Nine patients (27%) were lost to follow-up and are not included in the analysis. Optimum results were achieved following direct transfer (n = 20). Results following the use of an interpositional graft (n = 5) were rated satisfactory. No patient required a secondary shoulder procedure during the study period. There were no postoperative complications. Distal SAN-to-SSN (spinoscapular) nerve transfer is a reliable option for shoulder reinnervation in infants with brachial plexus birth injuries. Direct transfer seems to be the optimum method. The age of the patient does not seem to significantly impact on outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-194
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Spinal accessory nerve
  • Suprascapular nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Surgery


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