Object. Direct coaptation of intercostal nerves (ICNs) to the musculocutaneous (MC) nerve was performed to restore elbow flexion in 25 patients with brachial plexus root avulsions.
Methods. Seventy-five ICNs were transected as close as possible to the sternum to obtain sufficient length and then tunneled to the axilla and coapted to the MC nerve. Direct coaptation was achieved in 95% of ICNs, and functional elbow flexion was regained in 64% of the patients. The results were compared with several reported transfer techniques in which either an ICN or other donor nerves were used.
Conclusions. Direct coaptation was equally effective and more straightforward than transfers involving interposition of grafts. The use of alternative donors such as the accessory nerve carries inherent disadvantages compared with the use of ICNs, and the results are not substantially better. Direct ICN—MC nerve transfer is a valuable reconstructive procedure.