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The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 95-B, Issue 8 | Pages 1150 - 1150
1 Aug 2013
Ross A Birch R

We welcome letters to the Editor concerning articles that have recently been published. Such letters will be subject to the usual stages of selection and editing; where appropriate the authors of the original article will be offered the opportunity to reply.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 94-B, Issue 4 | Pages 529 - 535
1 Apr 2012
Birch R Misra P Stewart MPM Eardley WGP Ramasamy A Brown K Shenoy R Anand P Clasper J Dunn R Etherington J

The outcomes of 261 nerve injuries in 100 patients were graded good in 173 cases (66%), fair in 70 (26.8%) and poor in 18 (6.9%) at the final review (median 28.4 months (1.3 to 64.2)). The initial grades for the 42 sutures and graft were 11 good, 14 fair and 17 poor. After subsequent revision repairs in seven, neurolyses in 11 and free vascularised fasciocutaneous flaps in 11, the final grades were 15 good, 18 fair and nine poor. Pain was relieved in 30 of 36 patients by nerve repair, revision of repair or neurolysis, and flaps when indicated. The difference in outcome between penetrating missile wounds and those caused by explosions was not statistically significant; in the latter group the onset of recovery from focal conduction block was delayed (mean 4.7 months (2.5 to 10.2) vs 3.8 months (0.6 to 6); p = 0.0001). A total of 42 patients (47 lower limbs) presented with an insensate foot. By final review (mean 27.4 months (20 to 36)) plantar sensation was good in 26 limbs (55%), fair in 16 (34%) and poor in five (11%). Nine patients returned to full military duties, 18 to restricted duties, 30 to sedentary work, and 43 were discharged from military service. Effective rehabilitation must be early, integrated and vigorous. The responsible surgeons must be firmly embedded in the process, at times exerting leadership.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 94-B, Issue 4 | Pages 523 - 528
1 Apr 2012
Birch R Misra P Stewart MPM Eardley WGP Ramasamy A Brown K Shenoy R Anand P Clasper J Dunn R Etherington J

We describe 261 peripheral nerve injuries sustained in war by 100 consecutive service men and women injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their mean age was 26.5 years (18.1 to 42.6), the median interval between injury and first review was 4.2 months (mean 8.4 months (0.36 to 48.49)) and median follow-up was 28.4 months (mean 20.5 months (1.3 to 64.2)). The nerve lesions were predominantly focal prolonged conduction block/neurapraxia in 116 (45%), axonotmesis in 92 (35%) and neurotmesis in 53 (20%) and were evenly distributed between the upper and the lower limbs. Explosions accounted for 164 (63%): 213 (82%) nerve injuries were associated with open wounds. Two or more main nerves were injured in 70 patients. The ulnar, common peroneal and tibial nerves were most commonly injured. In 69 patients there was a vascular injury, fracture, or both at the level of the nerve lesion. Major tissue loss was present in 50 patients: amputation of at least one limb was needed in 18. A total of 36 patients continued in severe neuropathic pain.

This paper outlines the methods used in the assessment of these injuries and provides information about the depth and distribution of the nerve lesions, their associated injuries and neuropathic pain syndromes.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 93-B, Issue 1 | Pages 62 - 67
1 Jan 2011
Camp SJ Birch R

The integrity of the spinal accessory nerve is fundamental to thoracoscapular function and essential for scapulohumeral rhythm. This nerve is vulnerable along its superficial course. This study assessed the delay in diagnosis and referral for management of damage to this nerve, clarified its anatomical course and function, and documented the results of repair. From examination of our records, 111 patients with lesions of the spinal accessory nerve were treated between 1984 and 2007. In 89 patients (80.2%) the damage was iatropathic. Recognition and referral were seldom made by the surgeon responsible for the injury, leading to a marked delay in instituting treatment. Most referrals were made for painful loss of shoulder function. The clinical diagnosis is straightforward. There is a characteristic downward and lateral displacement of the scapula, with narrowing of the inferior scapulohumeral angle and loss of function, with pain commonly present. In all, 80 nerves were explored and 65 were repaired. The course of the spinal accessory nerve in relation to the sternocleidomastoid muscle was constant, with branches from the cervical plexus rarely conveying motor fibres. Damage to the nerve was predominantly posterior to this muscle.

Despite the delay, the results of repair were surprising, with early relief of pain, implying a neuropathic source, which preceded generally good recovery of muscle function.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 91-B, Issue 11 | Pages 1487 - 1492
1 Nov 2009
Blakey CM Biant LC Birch R

A series of 26 children was referred to our specialist unit with a ‘pink pulseless hand’ following a supracondylar fracture of the distal humerus after a mean period of three months (4 days to 12 months) except for one referred after almost three years. They were followed up for a mean of 15.5 years (4 to 26). The neurovascular injuries and resulting impairment in function and salvage procedures were recorded. The mean age at presentation was 8.6 years (2 to 12). There were eight girls and 18 boys.

Only four of the 26 patients had undergone immediate surgical exploration before referral and three of these four had a satisfactory outcome. In one child the brachial artery had been explored unsuccessfully at 48 hours. As a result 23 of the 26 children presented with established ischaemic contracture of the forearm and hand. Two responded to conservative stretching. In the remaining 21 the antecubital fossa was explored. The aim of surgery was to try to improve the function of the hand and forearm, to assess nerve, vessel and muscle damage, to relieve entrapment and to minimise future disturbance of growth.

Based on our results we recommend urgent exploration of the vessels and nerves in a child with a ‘pink pulseless hand’, not relieved by reduction of a supracondylar fracture of the distal humerus and presenting with persistent and increasing pain suggestive of a deepening nerve lesion and critical ischaemia.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 90-B, Issue 10 | Pages 1276 - 1277
1 Oct 2008
Birch R

John Kirkup, the distinguished orthopaedic surgeon and archivist recently published a book describing the history of amputation. This annotation highlights the importance of this work and the particular relevance of many of its themes to current orthopaedic and trauma practice.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 89-B, Issue 3 | Pages 382 - 387
1 Mar 2007
Knight DMA Birch R Pringle J

We reviewed 234 benign solitary schwannomas treated between 1984 and 2004. The mean age of the patients was 45.2 years (11 to 82). There were 170 tumours (73%) in the upper limb, of which 94 (40%) arose from the brachial plexus or other nerves within the posterior triangle of the neck. Six (2.6%) were located within muscle or bone. Four patients (1.7%) presented with tetraparesis due to an intraspinal extension.

There were 198 primary referrals (19 of whom had a needle biopsy in the referring unit) and in these patients the tumour was excised. After having surgery or an open biopsy at another hospital, a further 36 patients were seen because of increased neurological deficit, pain or incomplete excision. In these, a nerve repair was performed in 18 and treatment for pain or paralysis was offered to another 14.

A tender mass was found in 194 (98%) of the primary referrals. A Tinel-like sign was recorded in 155 (81%). Persistent spontaneous pain occurred in 60 (31%) of the 194 with tender mass, impairment of cutaneous sensibility in 39 (20%), and muscle weakness in 24 (12%).

After apparently adequate excision, two tumours recurred. No case of malignant transformation was seen.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 89-B, Issue 2 | Pages 242 - 243
1 Feb 2007
Uppal HS Gwilym SE Crawfurd EJP Birch R

We report a case of iatrogenic sciatic nerve injury caused by pre-operative intraneural injection of local anaesthetic at total hip replacement. To our knowledge, this is unreported in the orthopaedic literature. We consider sacral nerve blockade in patients undergoing total hip replacement to be undesirable and present guidelines for the management of peri-operative sciatic nerve injury.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 88-B, Issue 6 | Pages 756 - 759
1 Jun 2006
Kato N Htut M Taggart M Carlstedt T Birch R

We investigated the effect of delay before nerve repair on neuropathic pain after injury to the brachial plexus. We studied 148 patients, 85 prospectively and 63 retrospectively. The mean number of avulsed spinal nerves was 3.2 (1 to 5). Pain was measured by a linear visual analogue scale and by the peripheral nerve injury scale. Early repair was more effective than delayed repair in the relief from pain and there was a strong correlation between functional recovery and relief from pain.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 88-B, Issue 2 | Pages 213 - 219
1 Feb 2006
Kambhampati SBS Birch R Cobiella C Chen L

We describe the results of surgical treatment in a prospective study of 183 consecutive cases of subluxation (101) and dislocation (82) of the shoulder secondary to obstetric brachial plexus palsy between 1995 and 2000. Neurological recovery was rated ‘good’ or ‘useful’ in all children, whose lesions fell into groups 1, 2 or 3 of the Narakas classification. The mean age at operation was 47 months (3 to 204). The mean follow-up was 40 months (24 to 124).

The mean gain in function was 3.6 levels (9.4 to 13) using the Mallet score and 2 (2.1 to 4.1) on the Gilbert score. The mean active global range of shoulder movement was increased by 73°; the mean range of active lateral rotation by 58° and that of supination of the forearm by 51°. Active medial rotation was decreased by a mean of 10°. There were 20 failures. The functional outcome is related to the severity of the neurological lesion, the duration of the dislocation and onset of deformity.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 88-B, Issue 1 | Pages 90 - 94
1 Jan 2006
Ramachandran M Birch R Eastwood DM

Between 1998 and 2002, 37 neuropathies in 32 patients with a displaced supracondylar fracture of the humerus who were referred to a nerve injury unit were identified. There were 19 boys and 13 girls with a mean age of 7.9 years (3.6 to 11.3). A retrospective review of these injuries was performed. The ulnar nerve was injured in 19, the median nerve in ten and the radial nerve in eight cases. Fourteen neuropathies were noted at the initial presentation and 23 were diagnosed after treatment of the fracture. After referral, exploration of the nerve was planned for 13 patients. Surgery was later cancelled in three because of clinical recovery. Six patients underwent neurolysis alone. Excision of neuroma and nerve grafting were performed in four. At follow-up, 26 patients had an excellent, five a good and one a fair outcome.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 9 | Pages 1225 - 1226
1 Sep 2005
Bottomley N Williams A Birch R Noorani A Lewis A Lavelle J

We reviewed the relationship between the pattern of damage to the posterolateral corner of the knee and the position of the common peroneal nerve in 54 consecutive patients with posterolateral corner disruption requiring surgery. We found that 16 of the 18 patients with biceps avulsions or avulsion-fracture of the fibular head had a displaced common peroneal nerve. The nerve was pulled anteriorly with the biceps tendon. None of the 34 proximal injuries resulted in an abnormal nerve position.

Whenever bone or soft-tissue avulsion from the fibular head is suspected, the surgeon should expect an abnormal position of the common peroneal nerve and appreciate the increased risk of iatrogenic damage.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 8 | Pages 1089 - 1095
1 Aug 2005
Birch R Ahad N Kono H Smith S

This is a prospective study of 107 repairs of obstetric brachial plexus palsy carried out between January 1990 and December 1999. The results in 100 children are presented. In partial lesions operation was advised when paralysis of abduction of the shoulder and of flexion of the elbow persisted after the age of three months and neurophysiological investigations predicted a poor prognosis. Operation was carried out earlier at about two months in complete lesions showing no sign of clinical recovery and with unfavourable neurophysiological investigations.

Twelve children presented at the age of 12 months or more; in three more repair was undertaken after earlier unsuccessful neurolysis. The median age at operation was four months, the mean seven months and a total of 237 spinal nerves were repaired.

The mean duration of follow-up after operation was 85 months (30 to 152). Good results were obtained in 33% of repairs of C5, in 55% of C6, in 24% of C7 and in 57% of operations on C8 and T1. No statistical difference was seen between a repair of C5 by graft or nerve transfer.

Posterior dislocation of the shoulder was observed in 30 cases. All were successfully relocated after the age of one year. In these children the results of repairs of C5 were reduced by a mean of 0.8 on the Gilbert score and 1.6 on the Mallett score. Pre-operative electrodiagnosis is a reliable indicator of the depth of the lesion and of the outcome after repair. Intra-operative somatosensory evoked potentials were helpful in the detection of occult intradural (pre-ganglionic) injury.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 8 | Pages 1102 - 1106
1 Aug 2005
Stenning M Drew S Birch R

We describe 20 patients, aged between 43 and 88 years, with delayed nerve palsy or deepening of an initial palsy caused by arterial injury from low-energy injuries to the shoulder. The onset of palsy ranged from immediately after the injury to four months later. There was progression in all the patients with an initial partial nerve palsy. Pain was severe in 18 patients, in 16 of whom it presented as neurostenalgia and in two as causalgia. Dislocation of the shoulder or fracture of the proximal humerus occurred in 16 patients. There was soft-tissue crushing in two and prolonged unconsciousness from alcoholic intoxication in another two.

Decompression of the plexus and repair of the arterial injury brought swift relief from pain in all the patients. Nerve recovery was generally good, but less so in neglected cases. The interval from injury to the repair of the vessels ranged from immediately afterwards to 120 days.

Delayed onset of nerve palsy or deepening of a nerve lesion is caused by bleeding and/or impending critical ischaemia and is an overwhelming indication for urgent surgery. There is almost always severe neuropathic pain.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 6 | Pages 861 - 862
1 Jun 2005
Montgomery AS Birch R Malone A

We present a case of disruption of the posterolateral corner of the knee with avulsion of the tendon of biceps femoris. Repair and reconstruction included an allogenic tendon graft to replace the posterior cruciate ligament. Surgery was followed by a complete common peroneal nerve palsy. Revision surgery revealed that the nerve had been displaced anteriorly by avulsion of the biceps tendon and the tendon graft encircled it. Release of the nerve restored normal function at five months.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 3 | Pages 410 - 411
1 Mar 2005
Montgomery AS Birch R Malone A

We describe a patient with a painful sciatic neuropathy after total hip arthroplasty. Treatment was confined to neuroleptic and analgesic agents until neurolysis at seven years abolished pain and restored function.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 84-B, Issue 3 | Pages 462 - 462
1 Apr 2002

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 84-B, Issue 1 | Pages 100 - 103
1 Jan 2002
Saifuddin A Heffernan G Birch R

Ultrasound (US) was used to determine the congruity of the shoulder in 22 children with a deformity of the shoulder secondary to chronic obstetric brachial plexus palsy. There were 11 boys and 11 girls with a mean age of 4.75 years (0.83 to 13.92). The shoulder was scanned in the axial plane using a posterior approach with the arm internally rotated. The humeral head was classified as being either congruent or incongruent. The US appearance was compared with that on clinical examination and related to the intraoperative findings. All 17 shoulders diagnosed as incongruent on US were found to be incongruent at operation, whereas three diagnosed as congruent by US were found to be incongruent at operation. The diagnostic accuracy of US for the identification of shoulder incongruity was 82% when compared with the findings at surgery. US is a valuable, but not infallible tool, for the detection of incongruity of the shoulder.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 83-B, Issue 8 | Pages 1145 - 1148
1 Nov 2001
Khan R Birch R

This is a retrospective study of 612 cases of iatropathic injury to peripheral nerves seen in one tertiary referral unit between 1991 and 1998. A total of 291 patients was subsequently operated on to explore the nerve lesion. The most common presenting symptom was pain, which often masked underlying loss of function. The delay in diagnosis was up to 40 months.

The findings at operation were analysed according to the type of nerve damaged, the nature of the injury and the referring specialty. Some of the more common causal operations and procedures are discussed. Preventive measures are listed, and early diagnosis and treatment are recommended.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 83-B, Issue 6 | Pages 933 - 934
1 Aug 2001
Birch R