Gunshot injuries to the brachial plexus during wartime
Gunshot injuries of the brachial plexus are a challenging issue among peripheral nerve lesions. Surgical reconstruction of such injuries is difficult and the clinical outcome depends on several factors. The aim of this study was to present the outcome of surgical management of gunshot injuries of the brachial plexus that occurred following Iran-Iraq war. Twenty patients with 55 injured elements of the brachial plexus underwent surgery in Loghman-Hakim Hospital during 1982 and 1992. Reconstructive procedures included neurolysis in 30 injured elements, nerve grafting in 17 and a combination of these two methods in 8 cases. Surgical procedure was selected based on the microscopic findings during the operation. Final recovery outcome was assessed at least 3 years after surgery on the basis of motor and sensory recoveries. Final outcome was defined as poor, intermediate, and good. Both good and intermediate outcomes were considered as useful recovery. An acceptable recovery was obtained in 28 of 30 (94%) injured elements undergone neurolysis, 15 of 17 (89%) elements in nerve graft group, and 7 of 8 (87.5%) elements reconstructed with neurolysis in combination with nerve graft. In neurolysis, good recovery was more frequent and obtained in 23 of 30 (77.5%) lesions. Best treatment outcome was observed in lesions of lateral cord to musculocutaneous nerve which all injured elements showed good recovery. Impairment in none of the lesions in the level of posterior cord and lower trunk or C8-T1 led to good recovery. In surgical reconstruction of gunshot injuries of the brachial plexus the most favorable results were observed in the neurolysis reconstruction of the lesions in the lateral cord to musculocutaneous nerve. In the absence of spontaneous improvement of neurologic deficit, surgical procedures should be done as soon as possible according to the type and location of injury.