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Functional Outcome Thirty Years After Median and Ulnar Nerve Repair in Childhood and Adolescence
A. Chemnitz, MD1; A. Björkman, MD, PhD1; L.B. Dahlin, MD, PhD1; B. Rosén, OT, PhD1
1 Department of Hand Surgery, Skåne University Hospital, S-205 02, Malmö, Sweden. E-mail address for A. Chemnitz: Anette.Chemnitz@med.lu.se. E-mail address for A. Björkman: Anders.Bjorkman@med.lu.se. E-mail address for L.B. Dahlin: Lars.Dahlin@med.lu.se. E-mail address for B. Rosén: Birgitta.Rosen@med.lu.se
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Investigation performed at the Department of Hand Surgery, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden



Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2013 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2013 Feb 20;95(4):329-337. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00074
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Abstract

Background: 

Age at injury is believed to be a factor that strongly influences functional outcome after nerve injury. However, there have been few long-term evaluations of the results of nerve repair and reconstruction in children. Our aim was to evaluate the long-term functional outcome of nerve repair or reconstruction at the forearm level in patients with a complete median and/or ulnar nerve injury at a young age.

Methods: 

Forty-five patients were assessed at a median of thirty-one years after a complete median and/or ulnar nerve injury in the forearm. The outcome was classified with a total score (the Rosén score), a standardized outcome instrument consisting of three separate domains for sensory and motor function as well as pain/discomfort. In addition, the DASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand) score, sensitivity to cold, and locognosia were assessed specifically, together with the patient’s estimation of the overall outcome and impact on his or her education, work, and leisure activities. Comparisons were made between injuries that occurred in childhood (less than twelve years of age) and those that were sustained in adolescence (twelve to twenty years of age), and according to the nerve(s) that was injured (median nerve, ulnar nerve, or both).

Results: 

Functional recovery, expressed as the total outcome score, the sensory domain of that score, and the patient’s subjective estimation of outcome, was significantly better after injuries sustained in childhood than after those that occurred in adolescence (87% and 67% of complete recovery, respectively; p < 0.001). No significant differences in recovery were seen between median and ulnar nerve injuries, or even when both nerves were injured. Motor function was close to normal, and cold sensitivity was not a problem in either age group. The median DASH scores were within normal limits and did not differ between the groups. Patients who sustained the injury in adolescence indicated that the nerve injury had a significantly higher effect on their profession, education, and leisure activities.

Conclusions: 

At a median of thirty-one years after a median or ulnar nerve repair at the level of the forearm, nerve function is significantly better in those injured in childhood than in those injured in adolescence, with almost full sensory and motor recovery in individuals injured in childhood.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    References

    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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