Flaccid Dysfunction of the Elbow

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CHAPTER 71 Flaccid Dysfunction of the Elbow


Flaccid paralysis of the elbow severely limits a patient’s ability to position and stabilize the hand so that it can function. The patient with paralysis of the elbow flexors (biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis) is unable to reach the face to eat, shave, wash, and comb the hair. Most jobs require the hand to be held at frequently changing levels for lifting and carrying, and this is impossible when the elbow flexors are paralyzed. Paralysis of the elbow extensors results in loss of ability to work with the extremity held above the horizontal position, for example, to reach for an object on a high shelf. Stabilizing an object in space or on a surface, as when holding a loaf of bread while slicing it, is also impossible. Without active elbow extension, a patient who needs to transfer or use crutches is unable to do so. Supination of the forearm is necessary for lifting and carrying and for using the hand around the face. Pronation is important for positioning the hand for activities such as writing, working at a bench, typing on a computer, or driving a car.

Most of the operations described before the microsurgical era that were designed to restore elbow flexion were developed for patients paralyzed as a result of poliomyelitis. Another group of injuries that results in loss of elbow flexion are traumatic brachial plexus injuries. Most often, the injury is the result of high-speed motorcycle or automobile accidents, and results in a varying degree of injury to the brachial plexus. With irreparable lesions of the C5 and C6 nerve roots, known as upper trunk injuries, there is flaccid paralysis of the elbow flexors in addition to the shoulder girdle musculature with preservation of nearly normal hand function. Obstetric birth palsy also can affect elbow function in the infant and typically involves the upper portion of the brachial plexus (Erb’s palsy) resulting in paralysis or weakness on elbow flexion that may require reconstructive surgery. Traumatic irreparable damage directly or indirectly to the musculocutaneous and radial nerves proximal to the muscles innervated by them results in flaccid paralysis of the elbow. Extensive direct muscle injury occasionally necessitates tendon and muscle transfer to replace lost function. Restoration of elbow extension is essential in patients with tetraplegia. By increasing reachable workspace, the ability to relieve pressure, better wheelchair propulsion, and independent transfer, the lives of tetraplegics can be significantly improved. Upper extremity surgery generally has a positive impact on quality of life through an increased ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) and independence for people with tetraplegia. It is essential to realize that the hand is useless unless it can be maintained in a useful position by the elbow. Therefore, the first goal in the treatment of the flaccid elbow is to restore elbow flexion by direct nerve surgery or secondary reconstructive surgery whenever possible.

The basic types of reconstructive procedures available for restoration of elbow function include nerve transfers, tendon transfers, and free functioning muscle transfers. Combinations of nerve transfers and novel uses of free functioning muscle transfers have offered more function in patients with devastating injuries. Each of the basic types of reconstructive procedures, the timing, principles, anatomy, outcome and our overall recommendations will be detailed in this chapter.



Timing of surgical reconstruction varies depending on the etiology of the injury that caused loss of elbow flexion. Historically, the literature is often confusing with respect to timing of surgical procedures. Older literature is often in direct conflict with the newer literature. For example, for traumatic brachial plexus injuries, the recommendation was to wait at least 12 months for spontaneous return of function before embarking on tendon transfer. Often a locking-hinge elbow brace was applied, particularly for patients who have good hand function.249 However, with the advent of microsurgical reconstructive techniques, intervention before 6 months from injury is now recommended.7,54,73,176,214

In tetraplegic patients, reconstructive surgery to replace triceps function should not be undertaken less than a year after the injury. In a child with arthrogryposis, transfers to gain elbow flexion can be done after the age of 5 years. Usually, reconstruction should be performed on one side only so that one extremity can be used for activities that require flexion, while the unoperated elbow is used for those that require extension. After the traumatic loss of a flexor or extensor muscle compartment, it is advisable to wait until the tissues about the elbow joint are supple before proceeding with tendon transfer or free muscle transfers.

Any use of the hand will be wasted without elbow function to maintain it in a useful position. Therefore, the first goal in the treatment of a flail arm is the restoration of elbow flexion by primary direct nerve surgery or secondary reconstructive surgery.17,172,176 An exception is in polio-type brachial plexus paralysis, in which priority should be given to restoration of shoulder abduction rather than elbow flexion. In these cases, early nerve transfers within 1 year of paralysis achieve significantly more shoulder abduction than late nerve transfer or palliative reconstruction with muscle/tendon transfer or shoulder arthrodesis, whereas elbow flexion may spontaneously recover in up to 90% of cases.142 In obstetric brachial plexus palsy, timing of surgical intervention is highly controversial. Although most authors agree that surgical intervention is indicated when no recovery of biceps function occurs, some have recommended intervention at 3 months92 or as late as 9 months.60

In all timing of reconstructive procedures for neurologically disabled patients, achieving stability of neurologic status, mental status (acceptance of the permanency of the disorder), and social status (clearly established goals of rehabilitation) is an essential prerequisite before any surgery is undertaken that is not itself concerned with stability.110 Conditions that interfere with progression toward the goals of rehabilitation before neurologic stability has been achieved include flexion contractures of the elbow and supination contractures of the forearm, which must be corrected before further reconstruction is undertaken.


Reasonably functional passive motion of the elbow must be obtained before nerve, tendon, or muscle transfers are performed. This often requires the joint and muscle contractures to be stretched, and as a result, the functioning muscles are strengthened by progressive resistance exercises. Passive flexion of at least 120 degrees is desirable before tendon transfer is carried out. Static adjustable splints (see Chapter 11) are useful in regaining passive extension.95 Occasionally, surgery is required to release a severely damaged elbow flexor, extensor muscle, or joint capsule before the joint can be mobilized. A preliminary or concurrent V to Y release of a contracted triceps, in conjunction with flexorplasty, may be necessary to correct an extension contracture in an arthrogrypotic child. If soft tissue cover is necessary, it usually can be provided as a skin paddle on the transposed latissimus dorsi flap.

When contractures are greater than 60 degrees and interfere with or are exaggerated during ADLs, surgical release is indicated.126 The contracture correction can consist of combinations of Z-lengthening of the biceps tendon, myofascial release of the brachialis, and release at the origin of the wrist flexor-pronators. Capsular release is necessary only in severe, long-standing contracture. The contracture that occurs in Erb’s palsy is paradoxical in nature, given the normal triceps function in the face of weak or absent biceps function. A dynamic splint126 or serial casting, followed by biceps tenotomy with further casting,84 may also be used. The latter method is associated with improved joint range of motion without loss of elbow flexion strength in 80% of cases. Drawbacks of this treatment are pressure sores and stiffness, and the limitations in correcting pronation as the elbow reaches full extension. When an upper motor neuron unit is involved in the contracture, botulism toxin or selective crush of the musculocutaneous nerve is used with success concurrent with casting, especially in contractures developing early after spinal cord injury. These patients are especially prone to developing a pronation contracture due to biceps weakness. Pronation and supination contractures should also be addressed before fixed bony changes occur in the radius and ulna.


The type of muscle transfer depends on the muscle groups that are available.172 The original functional properties between the donor and recipient muscles must be matched.86 A transferred muscle must provide both adequate strength and excursion in its new role.

Clinical and electromyographic testing of various muscles should be performed before transfer. A muscle to be transferred should show an adequate electromygraphic trace and have appropriate strength. The extent of a brachial plexus lesion dictates which muscles will have retained their innervation. The most common cause of failure in tendon transfers about the elbow, as elsewhere, is overestimating the strength of the transferred muscle. The muscle to be transferred should contract against gravity resistance (grade 4, “M4”) if significant function is to be anticipated (Table 71-1). Preoperative electromyography (EMG) of the muscle proposed for transfer is a good idea, but mild denervation changes do not preclude the transfer.226

TABLE 71-1 Muscle Strength Grading System According to the British Medical Research Council161

Grade Definition Explanation
0 Absent No function
1 Trace Slight contraction, no motion
2 Poor Complete motion, gravity eliminated
3 Fair Complete motion against gravity
4 Good Complete motion against gravity and some resistance
5 Normal Apparently normal strength

In addition to muscle strength, which is determined by clinical examination, it is helpful to consider the comparative work capacities of the various muscles available for transfer.245 The work capacity is determined by multiplying the power of the muscle (3.65 kg/cm2 of physiologic cross section) by its amplitude (the distance through which the tendon moves when its muscle contracts). The work capacity of the biceps for elbow flexion is 4.8 kg/m, and for forearm supination, it is 1.1 kg/m. The sternocostal head of the pectoralis major muscle has nearly three times as much work capacity at 10.4 kg/m. By contrast, the work capacity of all forearm flexors1 (pronator teres, flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris, and palmaris longus) is 3.8 kg/m.116

The dispensability of the transferred muscle must be considered when a muscle is chosen for transfer around the elbow. Triceps transfer for elbow flexion is not often indicated because the triceps is not really expendable. The latissimus dorsi is not expendable in polio patients, who rely on it to elevate the pelvis when the other pelvic elevators are paralyzed.

Finally, cosmesis may be a consideration. The bow-stringing of the sternocleidomastoid transfer across the side of the neck makes it an undesirable transfer, even though, theoretically, it is one of the most mechanically efficient ones. Restoration of nearly normal bulk of the arm in a patient with loss of flexor or extensor muscle mass is a nice cosmetic byproduct of the bipolar transplant of the latissimus or pectoralis muscle.



Neurotization or brachial plexus reconstruction is the treatment of choice in early cases of the flail upper extremity.* In chronic cases or failed early reconstruction, several tendon transfer procedures to restore elbow flexion are available49: Steindler flexorplasty and its modifications,28,36,40,76,146,158,222 anterior transposition of the triceps tendon,43 pectoralis-to-biceps transfer, with or without the pectoralis minor, pectoralis minor alone,200 sternomastoid-to-biceps transfer with or without shoulder arthrodesis,40,44 transfer of the flexor carpi ulnaris,1 and unipolar or bipolar transposition of the latissimus dorsi muscle.11,15,33,48,117,207,237,255 Free muscle transfer is fast becoming a mainstay of the armamentarium of upper extremity reconstructive surgeons and has proved useful in both early and chronic cases of brachial plexus and traumatic injuries. Each of these treatment modalities has its advocates, and knowledge of a number of different options will allow treatment to be tailored to the needs and expectations of the patient.

The muscle groups chosen for tendon transfer depend on those that are available. Triceps-to-biceps transfer is advocated when there are biceps-triceps co-contractions, and Steindler’s procedure when the elbow flexors reach only grade 2.7 The latter may be contraindicated when the elbow flexors are grade 0, when the wrist flexors are weak, or when wrist and finger extensors are paralyzed.172 The Steindler flexorplasty can also be augmented by a pectoralis minor transfer. In children with obstetric brachial plexus palsy at the C5, C6 level, flexorplasties are indicated when there is a functional hand but with weak elbow flexion and inability to position the hand.113 In these patients, the Steindler procedure is reserved for elbows with excellent forearm muscles for wrist and digit flexion. When these are not all M5, the triceps-to-biceps transfer is advocated, by some authors using only a normal triceps,113 and by others,202 even with a weak triceps. When neither the triceps nor the forearm flexors are judged as being of sufficient strength, the pectoralis major or minor transfer can be used, or preferably, a free-functioning muscle transfer can be performed.


Neurotization is the technique of nerve transfer used to restore motor or sensory function after brachial plexus injuries when the nerve damage is too far proximal for standard nerve-grafting techniques to be feasible. In 1903, Harris and Low104 inserted half of the distal fascicles of the C5 root, which was damaged at the foramen, into the healthy spinal nerve C6 or C7 in three cases of Erb’s palsy. No results were recorded. In 1913, Tuttle241 mentioned one case of neurotization using the spinal accessory nerve. In 1963, Seddon211 first reported neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve using intercostal nerves in two patients, both times obtaining active elbow flexion.

Subsequently, many early cases of neurotization using intercostal nerves have reported a modicum of success.§ Early reports on neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve using parts of the cervical plexus35 and spinal accessory nerve5,122,181 also mention some limited success.98 Later series report satisfactory restoration of elbow flexion after intercostal nerve transfer to the musculocutaneous nerve without intercalated grafts.68,128,174 The goal is to provide the musculocutaneous nerve with the best motor donors.233 This can be achieved by reconstruction using intraplexus donors such as nerve grafts from the proximal stumps of avulsed C5 roots. It must be stressed, however, that nerve transpositions are effective only when they are performed within 6 to 9 months of injury.5,24,51,128,163,181,201,217

Currently used extraplexus transpositions for elbow flexion, in general order of decreasing frequency, are the intercostal nerve,88,179 spinal accessory nerve,6 thoracodorsal nerve,204 pectoral nerve,31 phrenic nerve,53,98 hypoglossal nerve,177 platysma motor branch,22 and high cervical nerve roots.252 The ulnar186 and median nerves148,150,151 can be used as intraplexus donors, with their vascular supply left intact. This is recommended only for global plexopathy or tetraplegia involving C7, C8 and T1 so as not to sacrifice any remaining or potential nerve function.139,186 Other intraplexus donors can be obtained by the selective contralateral C7 method56,97,235 or by transfer of the medial pectoral nerve.205,246 Cross-chest radial nerve transfer has been proposed and is feasible anatomically but requires tendon transfer reconstruction of radial nerve innervated muscles in the contralateral arm.21 Another rarely used intraplexus donor is the long thoracic nerve,177 which provides the sole innervation for the serratus anterior, causes scapular winging after transfer, and therefore, is not recommended.144

The phrenic nerve can be transferred without pulmonary complications,98 even with concurrent intercostal nerve transfer,101 although the risk of reduced vital capacity is greater when the right phrenic nerve is used.149 Its full length can be harvested using video-assisted thoracic surgery techniques.251 Transfer of intercostal nerves alone have been associated with a nonsignificant mild decline in pulmonary function, without a subjective effect on respiratory status or stamina.128

Intraoperative somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) recording is mandatory to ascertain the level of injury—even when a root appears to have sustained a pos-ganglionic injury, nerve grafting is never indicated in a root with a negative SEP.175


The exposure of the brachial plexus as performed by Sedel is described in this section.19 The patient, under general anesthesia, is given no neuromuscular blocking agents. An incision is made parallel to the clavicle, with an extension parallel to the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The skin flaps are elevated, and the external jugular vein is ligated. The sternocleidomastoid is retracted, allowing dissection to proceed in the prescalene area. The phrenic nerve is identified on the scalenus anterior. The fifth cervical root is identified at the point where the phrenic nerve crosses the lateral aspect of the scalenus anterior proximally. The sixth cervical root is more distal and medial with a more horizontal direction. The seventh cranial nerve root is more horizontal still and more posterior; more posteriorly and medially lie the more difficult to identify eighth cervical and first thoracic nerve roots. The scalenus anterior is divided, the subclavian artery is retracted ventrally, and the pleural dome is retracted dorsally. The infraclavicular incision is extended onto the deltopectoral groove, sometimes extending over the arm. The axillary artery is dissected and the lateral, posterior and medial cords of the brachial plexus are identified. If exposure is required behind the clavicle, this is divided and repaired with an AO plate later. A supraclavicular or infraclavicular approach can be used.

In accordance with the goals of reconstruction of the flail upper limb, the first priority in neurotization is to attach a motor nerve donor to the musculocutaneous nerve. Grafts used for this purpose include the suprascapular and spinal accessory nerve, alone or in conjunction with two or three intercostal nerves (Fig. 71-1). In decreasing order of priority, the radial nerve (after dissection and removal of the triceps or posterior cord branch), median nerve, and axillary nerves are reconstructed in a similar fashion. The operative strategy depends on the type and extent of the lesion and the number, quality and length of available grafts, as well as the aspect of the proximal neuroma. If there is a neuroma in continuity, there is controversy as to whether it should be resected or treated by simple neurolysis.250 In any case, conduction across the neuroma is best assessed using nerve action potential rather than muscle action potential, because the former requires 40 to 50 times as many fibers of reasonable caliber to elicit a response. There is discussion as to the advantage of using interposition nerve grafting when performing intercostal nerve transfers. It has been demonstrated that intercostal nerves lose up to 10% of motor axons per 10 cm measured from the midaxillary line to the sternum.163 Coaptation of the transfer closer to the motor endplates, avoidance of tension on the nerve repair, and earlier shoulder mobilization are other theoretical advantages. This includes coaptation directly to the dominant motor branch of the biceps muscle rather than to the musculocutaneous nerve.31,128 There is no consensus on the optimum number of intercostal nerves to be transferred to the musculocutaneous nerve to obtain optimal biceps function. Also, there is no consensus on using the spinal accessory nerve over intercostal nerves. A theoretical advantage of the spinal accessory nerve for transfer is the high number and ratio of motor fibers (1500-3000) compared with an intercostal nerve (500-700 motor fibers per nerve).5,88,244 However, a clear disadvantage cited by most authors is the need for an interpositional graft when using the spinal accessory nerve. If necessary, the spinal accessory nerve can be harvested through a posterior approach.12,99,194 An average extra length of 12 cm can be gained compared with the standard anterior approach, allowing the terminal branches of the brachial plexus to be neurotized without the need for an interposition graft (Fig. 71-2).244 Vathana et al.244 measured an average of 817 myelinated axons at the most distal level; however, these authors warn that the size mismatch with terminal branches in the brachial plexus (varying between 5000 and 14000 axons) may predict poorer outcome and that this approach may be more suitable for reinnervation of the suprascapular nerve at the level of the supraclavicular notch. When interposition grafts are unavoidable, results may be improved with the use of vascularized nerve grafts.53 The vascularized ulnar nerve graft has been shown to maintain its blood supply and viability even in a scarred bed.235 Pedicled on the superior ulnar collateral vessels and ulnar vessels, this yields better results than including the superior ulnar collateral vessels alone.97 This intraplexus donor has a greater number of axons than any extraplexus donor, potentially increasing the probability for successful neurotization.235


FIGURE 71-1 Intercostal nerve neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve.

(By permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.)


FIGURE 71-2 The posteriorly harvested spinal accessory nerve can be used to reach distal anterior targets in the brachial plexus.

(By permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.)

Distal nerve-to-nerve transfers are possible, however, only when the lower plexus is intact. Possible transfers include ulnar nerve to the biceps branch of the musculocutaneous nerve or to biceps and brachialis, medial pectoral, and thoracodorsal nerves (Fig. 71-3).147,150,151,187 A shorter distance and time to reinnervation is provided by these transfers.


FIGURE 71-3 Oberlin187 transfer of the ulnar nerve to the musculocutaneous nerve. When the ulnar nerve is intact, a fascicle can be transferred to the biceps motor branch to restore elbow flexion.

(By permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.)


Intraplexus donors provide better results than extraplexus donors, although direct neurotization of the musculocutaneous nerve from ipsilateral intercostal nerves produces results comparable to intraplexus neurotizations,233 as does direct neurotization of the suprascapular nerve with the spinal accessory nerve for shoulder function.235 A meta-analysis of the English literature (26 studies, 965 nerve transfers) showed M3 biceps strength in 72% of direct intercostal-to-musculocutaneous transfers versus 47% with interposition grafts (P < 0.001), with a trend observed at ≥M4 biceps strength (41% vs 32%).163 Spinal accessory nerve–to–musculocutaneous nerve transfers for elbow flexion were comparable to intercostal nerves without interposition grafts at ≥M3 strength (77% vs 72%). Intercostal nerves, however, were significantly better at providing ≥M4 biceps strength relative to spinal accessory nerve (41% vs 29%; P < 0.001). The same authors were unable to demonstrate a difference when two versus three or four intercostal nerves were used for restoration of elbow flexion to ≥M3 strength.

This contrasts with a prospective study involving 205 patients performed by Waikakul et al.,247 comparing spinal accessory to intercostal nerve transfer. These authors found that spinal accessory nerve transfers produced significantly better motor outcomes, but patients with intercostal nerve transfers had significantly better protective sensation and pain relief. Also, the shoulder subluxation in the spinal accessory group required more frequent shoulder fusion. Spinal accessory nerve transfer is preferred by these authors in isolated biceps paralysis, whereas intercostal transfer is recommended for global plexus palsy, particularly those with deafferentation pain.247 A beneficial effect of neurotization that frequently precedes functional return by months is the alleviation of deafferentation pain and an improvement in protective sensation.181 A lack of pain allows patients to concentrate on rehabilitation and improve their function and dexterity.235

The contrasting results between different studies may be due to the use of an interposition graft with the spinal accessory nerve that may offset the advantage of containing more motor fibers.163

Oberlin’s method of transfer of two ulnar nerve fascicles show promising results for restoration of elbow flexion,139,186,232 as does the double fascicular nerve transfer from the ulnar and median nerves to biceps and brachialis branches of the musculocutaneous nerves.147,151

Several nerve transfers may be combined to decrease the time to functional return and provide better results. Leechavengvongs and colleagues140 reported the results of 15 combined spinal accessory–to–suprascapular nerve, ulnar nerve–to–biceps motor branch, and long head of the triceps branch–to–the axillary nerve transfers for C5 and C6 avulsion injuries. Elbow flexion strength was M4 in 13 patients and M3 in two patients at an average follow-up of 24 months.


Steindler’s Flexorplasty

Steindler first described his simple but ingenious concept of proximally shifting the origin of the flexor-pronator muscle group to increase its lever arm in flexing the elbow in 1918.220,221 His technique consisted of the subperiosteal dissection of the origin of the flexor-pronator muscles of the forearm from the medial epicondyle. The muscle flap was then transposed proximally between the brachialis and the triceps, and was sutured to the medial epicondylar ridge through two drill holes 2 inches above the epicondyle. Steindler recommended the procedure only if the wrist flexors were normal or only slightly weakened.

Subsequent authors differed on the prerequisites for Steindler’s flexorplasty. Mayer and Green158 believed that the epicondylar muscle group strength should be grade 3 or better, and they re-emphasized the need for strong wrist flexors if the operation is to succeed. They described this simple test:

The arm is abducted to 90 degrees to eliminate gravity. Any patient who can flex the elbow in this position (using the epicondylar muscle group) is a candidate for the operation. Nyholm believed that the criteria for forearm muscle strength should be liberalized because all of his patients achieved 90 degrees of elbow flexion, even though a relatively large number had forearm muscles that were “primarily paretic.”183 Dutton and Dawson76 performed the operation if the strength of the forearm flexor-pronator group was rated fair or better. Alnot7 believed that the shoulder flexorplasty was most indicated to reinforce a biceps that had recovered to M2 strength. It seems that there is considerable variability in the preoperative muscle strength needed for active flexion, and the axiom that the muscle loses a grade in transferring it does not necessarily apply in this particular situation.

Others have modified and refined Steindler’s original concept to increase flexor strength and decrease the tendency toward development of a pronation deformity. Bunnell40 described extending the common tendon of origin with a fascia lata graft that would reach 2 inches up the lateral border of the humerus. This resulted in moderate but not complete correction of the pronation tendency. Mayer and Green158 detached the flexor-pronator origin with a portion of the medial epicondyle and attached it through a window cut in the anterior cortex of the humerus 5 to 7.5 cm proximal to the joint. Their description of the technical details of the Steindler flexorplasty, which includes careful dissection of the ulnar and median motor branches, is the best in the literature. Lindholm and Einola145 used a screw to fix the epicondylar fragment to the humerus in two cases. Eyler79 advocated omitting the flexor carpi ulnaris to allow the surgeon to work in the “internervous plane” between the flexor sublimis, anteriorly, and the flexor profundus and flexor carpi ulnaris, dorsally.

Efforts have been made to augment the strength of elbow flexion, especially in patients who have weakness of the flexor-pronator muscle group. Initially, Steindler recommended proximal transfer of the radial wrist extensor muscle origins off the lateral epicondyle in conjunction with the medial transfer, but he did not comment on it in his later communications.222 Mayer and Green reported having difficulty mobilizing the lateral epicondylar muscle group without damaging the nerve supply158 and gave up the procedure after two unsatisfactory results. Lindholm and Einola146 were unable to detect any increase in flexion strength in the six patients who had the additional lateral transfer.

Technique (modified from Mayer and Green)

A sandbag is placed under the opposite hip (Fig. 71-4). A tourniquet usually is not used. The incision begins on the anterior aspect of the arm about 7.5 cm above the elbow and swings gently in a medial direction. At the elbow, it runs just posterior to the epicondyle. It then curves anteriorly, following the direction of the pronator teres, ending about 10 cm below the elbow. The ulnar nerve is isolated and freed distally to the branches of the flexor carpi ulnaris. Preserving these motor branches, the surgeon continues the dissection distally for 5 cm. The lacertus fibrosus is divided, and the median nerve is exposed above the elbow and dissected distally, exposing the motor branches (all of which leave the medial aspect of the nerve) to the common flexor-pronator muscle group. The common flexor-pronator muscle origin is then detached with a flake of epicondyle (cartilage in children and bone in adults). The flake of bone or cartilage is then grasped with a clamp, and while traction is exerted in distal and anterior directions, the muscles are stripped from the anterior surface of the joint and from the coronoid process of the ulna. As the ulnar head of the flexor carpi ulnaris is detached from the ulna with an elevator, the assistant puts gentle traction on the median and ulnar nerves, demonstrating the motor twigs that must be carefully avoided. Dissection is continued distally as far as the anatomic distribution of the nerves permits. The common tendon is then transfixed with a modified pull-out suture of No. 1 prolene. The elbow is flexed to 120 degrees, and traction is exerted on the transfer to determine how far above the elbow the transfer will reach. This is usually between 5 and 7.5 cm. The ulnar nerve often seems to have less tension on it if it is transferred anterior to the epicondyle. The atrophic fibers of the brachialis are slit longitudinally, the periosteum is incised, and the anterior humerus is exposed subperiosteally. An opening in the anterior cortex of the humerus nearer to the lateral than to the medial border is made at the point to which the transplant reaches when the elbow is flexed. Two small drill holes are made from anterior to posterior through this cortical window. The prolene suture ends are then threaded through the holes and out through the triceps muscle and skin. To be sure that they are not subjected to undue tension on twisting, the nerves are inspected as the transfer is pulled into the cortical window. The distal portion of the wound is closed, up to the bend in the elbow. The sutured ends are drawn tight with the elbow in maximal flexion and tied over a button under which a thick piece of felt has been placed. Several auxiliary sutures between the periosteum and the transplanted epicondylar tissues are placed, and the wound is closed with a drain.


FIGURE 71-4 Steindler’s flexorplasty.221 A, The incision. B, The ulnar nerve is mobilized proximally and distally, and its motor branches to the flexor carpi ulnaris are identified and protected. C, The common flexor-pronator origin is detached with a flake of medial epicondyle. The motor branches of the median nerve to the flexor-pronator group are identified and protected. D, The detached flexor-pronator group is mobilized distally as far as the motor branches of the medial and ulnar nerves will permit. The brachialis muscle is divided. E, The distal humerus is prepared, and a prolene pull-out suture is used to anchor the transferred muscles to the anterolateral surface of the humerus 5 to 7.5 cm above the elbow.

(After Mayer, L., and Green, W.: Experiences with Steindler flexorplasty of the elbow. J. Bone Joint Surg. 36A:775, 1954.)

A posterior splint is then applied with the elbow in about 120 degrees’ flexion and the forearm in full supination. Four weeks after surgery, the pull-out suture is removed. A removable Orthoplast splint is applied, and active flexion and supination and extension exercises are begun. No special retraining is required because the muscles transferred functioned as an accessory elbow flexor before transfer.58 Splinting is discontinued 6 to 8 weeks after surgery, the longer time being necessary for patients with normal triceps function. A dynamic extension splint is often useful if the patient has no triceps function (Fig. 71-5).

In patients with C5-7 palsy in which the wrist and finger extensors are weakened or paralyzed, the forearm flexor-pronators are strong but the triceps is not available or co-contracts with the biceps, the Steindler procedure should be complemented with wrist arthrodesis.172 Furthermore, success of the procedure relies on sufficient power of the flexor-pronator muscles.76,124,145,146,155,158


Published results of the Steindler flexorplasty reflect a high degree of success in achieving a functional range of elbow flexion against gravity. Most transfers reported have been performed for poliomyelitis. Steindler achieved 79.5% good results (flexion against gravity of not less than 90 degrees) in 39 cases.224 Fifteen good results (useful range of flexion with good to fair power) in 27 flexorplasties were reported by Carroll and Gartland.42 Using strict criteria for success, including subtracting from the total score for flexion contracture of more than 15 degrees and for supination of less than 45 degrees, Mayer and Green recorded 11 excellent results, five good, four fair, and two poor results among the 22 flexorplasties they followed up (Fig. 71-6).158 Segal and associates compared the results of 13 Steindler flexorplasties (transplantation of both flexor and extensor origins) and 17 Clark pectoralis major transfers.213 The flexorplasty results were better than the pectoralis transfers, but the average flexion contracture in the flexorplasty group was 60 degrees, whereas it rarely exceeded 15 degrees in the Clark transfer group. Kettelkamp and Larson, evaluating 15 flexorplasties using Mayer and Green’s scoring system, noted eight excellent or good results, six fair results, and one poor one.124 They also measured the carry-lift strength (flexion against gravity, plus weight in 1-pound increments) and found that nine of the 14 patients who were able to flex the elbow 110 degrees or more against gravity were able to flex through this range with 1 pound or more. The maximum weight lifted was 6 pounds by one patient.

Nyholm183 reported on 24 patients, six of whom achieved a normal degree of elbow flexion after flexorplasty. Five patients (three who had brachial plexus trauma and two polio) recovered some biceps function, which did not seem to be compromised by the previous flexorplasty. Nyholm noted that all of the patients except two preferred to flex the elbow with the forearm pronated and hand clenched.

Hoffer and Phipps113 reported on three Steindler flexorplasties in children with obstetric brachial plexus palsies (C5, C6). They achieved flexion strength M4 with 20 to 30 degrees of extension deficit.

One of the largest series of flexorplasties was reported by Lindholm and Einola,145 who found that 50 of their 61 patients achieved a range of flexion of at least 90 degrees. Eleven were able to lift a weight heavier than 1 kg at right angles. Dutton and Dawson76 noted that 20 patients had excellent or good function of the transferred muscles. Eighteen could lift at least 1 to 2 kg through an arc of full elbow motion.

Finally, several investigators have noted the beneficial effect of arthrodesis of the flail shoulder in patients who have had flexorplasties.76,124,145,223 Shoulder arthrodesis permits abduction at the scapulothoracic joint that decreases the gravitational forces that must be overcome by the transferred flexor-pronator muscle group. Stabilizing the humerus also maximizes the power of the transfer in preventing backward movement of the elbow, which diminishes the advantage of the flexion contracture by increasing the length of the arc through which the reconstructed flexor muscle must move the weight against gravity.124

A retrospective review of 12 patients with C5-7 brachial plexus palsy and extremely weak elbow flexion (M2 or less) were treated by Steindler flexorplasty and wrist arthrodesis. Eleven patients were found to have good or very good outcomes based on the criteria established by Alnot and Abols,8 and one patient had mild active flexion of the elbow.172 These results emphasize that despite recent advances in neurolysis nerve grafting and neurotization procedures, a direct approach to the neurologic lesion can give incomplete results, and for this reason, tendon transfers still play an important role. Chen49 reported results in eight patients, in four of whom one or several flexor-pronator tendons had been used in tendon transfer procedures to restore wrist and finger extension. The results after modified Steindler flexorplasty were not negatively affected by these previous procedures.

Liu and associates146 reported on the largest cohort of 71 patients with a follow-up of 4 to 15 years. The mean range of motion during active flexion against gravity was 114 degrees (range: 80 to 140 degrees). A mean extension lag of 28 degrees (range: 0 to 50 degrees) was created. Fourteen patients (20%) had significant loss of supination, for 11 of whom flexor carpi ulnaris–to–extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon transfers were performed to regain supination. Using Mayer and Green’s scoring system,158 results were excellent in 32%, good in 47%, fair in 13%, and poor in 8%. A clear improvement was seen over time; the results in operations performed between 1981 and 1987 were significantly better than those performed between 1970 and 1980 (57% versus 16% excellent results). This difference was attributed by the authors to the addition of shoulder arthrodesis as a stabilizing supplementary procedure in 45 cases, and the aforementioned tendon transfers in patients without active supination.

Andrisano9 reported on the long-term follow up (3-13 years, average 8.6 years) in 22 patients. These authors found good results in 50%, fair in 19% and poor results in 38%. These results were independent of the etiology of the elbow paralysis and the patient’s age, but were strongly dependent on surgical factors, such as the correct tension and placement of the epitrochlear mass.

Brunelli and coworkers36 have modified the procedure such that during transfer of the flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, and palmaris longus, they are carefully separated from the flexor digitorum superficialis, which is left in place. Together with placement of the transfer on the anterior aspect of the humerus, the so-called Steindler effect (pronation and simultaneous elbow and finger flexion) could be avoided in 28 of 32 cases.


The main complications of Steindler’s transfer are pronation and flexion contractures. Pronation contractures are related to (1) preoperative absence of active supination in most of these patients and (2) tightening of the pronator teres as a result of its proximal shift. Inserting the transfer more anteriorly and laterally on the humerus diminishes this tendency, but if no active supination is present, pronation deformity still may be a problem. Segal and associates213 and Nyholm183 did not notice any great change in passive supination after Steindler flexorplasty in their patients. Carroll and Gartland42 noted that approximately half of the 23 patients who were improved by the flexorplasty had pronation defects. Lindholm and Einola145 encountered pronation contracture in 17 of 61 patients who had had a flexorplasty, but 14 of them had had no active supination preoperatively. Dutton and Dawson noted an average loss of supination of 39 degrees in the 25 patients on whom they reported.76

The strength of the transferred muscles, the duration of immobilization, and the strength of the opposing triceps muscle affect the extent of the flexion contracture. A flexion contracture of the elbow does increase the mechanical advantage of the transferred muscle, and this is especially important in patients who have significant weakness of the transferred muscle group. The degree of fixed flexion contracture of the elbow that is considered acceptable varies a good deal among surgeons. Steindler believed that a 60-degree flexion contracture was acceptable,223 and Carroll and Gartland accepted 40 degrees.42 Kettlekamp and Larson124 observed that, when strength rather than appearance was important (typically for men and patients with severe paralysis of the contralateral arm), flexorplasties are more satisfactory with a flexion contracture between 30 and 60 degrees. Mayer and Green158 were not satisfied if the flexion contracture exceeded 15 degrees, and they used turnbuckle splints postoperatively to minimize the flexion deformity. Dutton and Dawson76 preferred a flexion contracture of 15 to 30 degrees, which allows the arm to “hang at the side” more normally in patients concerned with appearance, and a 30- to 45-degree contracture in patients who were more concerned with function.

Dutton and Dawson76 reported transient ulnar nerve paresthesias in two patients. Lindholm and Einola145 reported on two patients with postoperative ulnar nerve paresthesias, one of whom was still having symptoms at follow-up. Description of the transferred muscle occasionally occurs with variable impact. Steindler reported an excellent result after reinsertion,223 whereas Kettelkamp and Larson recorded a poor result in a patient with an untreated description.124

Inherent in the Steindler flexorplasty is the increased pronatory effect on the forearm and the associated risk of pronation deformity (Steindler effect). The incidence in the literature varies from 28% to 50%.42,76,145 Theoretically, inserting the flexor mass more anteriorly and laterally on the humerus will decrease this effect.146 The flexor carpi ulnaris can be transferred to the flexor carpi radialis40 or extensor carpi radialis brevis146 primarily or secondarily, or the flexor digitorum superficialis origin can be left in place.36

Latissimus Dorsi Transfer


Schottstaedt and colleagues207 were the first investigators to report successful restoration of elbow flexion by rotating the entire latissimus dorsi muscle on its neurovascular pedicle, reattaching its insertion to the coracoid and its origin to the distal biceps muscle and tendon. One patient could lift 4 pounds. They noted that the procedure was contraindicated when the latissimus dorsi was the only muscle capable of elevating the pelvis for a forward step. Zancolli and Mitre refined the technique described by Schottstaedt and associates and coined the term bipolar transfer.254 Brones and colleagues33 reported that the bipolar myocutaneous latissimus dorsi flap restored contour and function in a post-traumatic condition.

Restoration of elbow flexion by transferring only the origin of the latissimus dorsi to the biceps insertion (unipolar transfer) was reported by Hovnanian in 1956.117 He noted that the cross-sectional area, fiber length, and excursion of the latissimus dorsi muscle compared favorably with those of the biceps and brachialis. Axer11 and others modified the unipolar technique by using only the upper third of the latissimus dorsi, transferring its origin off several spinous processes to the biceps tendon. Excursion of 7 cm was obtained by stimulating this part of the muscle. According to these authors, transferring only a portion of the muscle avoids the sometimes bulky enlargement of the arm that results when the whole muscle is used. Preservation of some function in the undisturbed portion of the latissimus dorsi was noted in one of the patients. Botte and Wood28 decided whether to do bipolar or unipolar transfer at the time of surgery. If the line of pull stabilized in the plane of elbow motion and there was no tension on its neurovascular pedicle, the transfer was completed as a unipolar transfer. If the line of pull deviated outside the plane of elbow flexion or there was tension on the neurovascular pedicle, the transfer was converted to a bipolar transfer.

The latissimus muscle flap is widely used as a pedicled muscle flap for restoration of elbow flexion.53,55,155,182


The latissimus dorsi is a broad, thin muscle (Fig. 71-7) with a wide origin from the lower six thoracic vertebrae, from the spinous processes of the lumbar and sacral vertebrae by an aponeurosis from the iliac crest, and by muscle slips from the lower four ribs. It inserts into the medial wall and floor of the intertubercular groove of the humerus. The major vascular pedicle of the muscle is the thoracodorsal artery, a terminal branch of the subscapular artery. In 94% of the 114 specimens, a bifurcation of the common neurovascular trunk into lateral (parallel to the lateral border of the muscle) and medial (parallel to the upper border) branches has been documented.237 Bartlett and coworkers15 studied 50 latissimus dorsi muscles and noted the same bifurcation in 56% of the dissections. These studies provide the anatomic basis for the clinical findings noted by Axer and colleagues.11 The thoracodorsal nerve (C6-8) is derived from the posterior cord, and enters the muscle with the artery and its vein on its deep surface about 10 cm from its insertion. There are one to three branches from the thoracodorsal artery to the serratus muscle that have to be ligated to allow complete mobilization of the latissimus during a bipolar transfer. In the study by Bartlett and coworkers,15 the vascular pedicle to the latissimus dorsi had an average length of 11 cm and the thoracodorsal nerve a mean length of 12.3 cm.

Bipolar Transplantation

This description follows that of Zancolli and Mitre (Fig. 71-8).254 The operation is carried out in four steps:

The patient is in the lateral position, and the upper extremity is draped free. A longitudinal incision is made parallel to the lateral border of the latissimus dorsi muscle, extending from the posterior border of the axilla to the iliac crest. The dissection of the muscle is begun along its lateral border and leads from distal to proximal. The neurovascular pedicle must be freed up to its origin in the axilla, and this requires the ligation of any branches of the thoracodorsal artery that enter the serratus anterior. Once the neurovascular pedicle is freed, the origin and insertion of the latissimus dorsi are sectioned. When the muscle is small, it is transplanted completely, but when it is entirely normal, it may be necessary to transplant only its lateral half. It is also possible to fold over the vertebral border of the muscle to make it more tubular in shape. Initially, a pocket is created in the anterior aspect of the upper arm, big enough to fit the muscle. Then the muscle is dissected from its origin to its insertion and transferred to the anterior arm based on its neurovascular pedicle. The muscle is shaped to simulate a biceps muscle and is fixed proximally at the clavicle and distally to the radial tuberosity.218

A deltopectoral incision is used to expose the coracoid process and free the tendon of the pectoralis major, behind which the transposed latissimus dorsi will be routed. The insertion of the biceps is then exposed through a bayonet incision over the anterior aspect of the elbow. If the paralyzed biceps is to be resected, the resection is carried out through these two incisions and care is taken to protect the neurovascular bundle of the arm and to preserve a long segment of distal biceps tendon. The latissimus dorsi muscle is then passed under the skin bridge of the axilla, protecting its neurovascular pedicle from any kinking or tension. The insertion of the transposed muscle is passed deep to the pectoralis major tendon and up to the coracoid process while its distal end is passed downward toward the elbow beneath the skin of the arm. It is convenient at this time to close the thoracic incision over several drains. The distal biceps aponeurosis is opened up and spread out so that it can be wrapped around the distal end of the latissimus dorsi. A significant amount of distal latissimus muscle usually has to be excised because it is too long. After the distal anastomosis is completed, the distal skin incision is closed. The proximal end is then fixed at the junction of the conjoined tendon with the coracoid process, the length of the transplant being adjusted so that the elbow remains spontaneously at 90 to 100 degrees of flexion with some trial sutures in place. When the proper length has been determined, the final suturing of the proximal end is carried out and the shoulder wound is closed. A plaster Velpeau bandage is then applied with the elbow flexed and the forearm supinated.

The drains are removed at 48 hours. Postoperative immobilization is maintained for 6 weeks. Flexion exercises are then permitted (with gravity eliminated) with gradually decreasing extension block splinting over the next 2 weeks. At 8 weeks, flexion against gravity begins. Four to 6 months is required before the transplant attains maximum strength.

Myocutaneous transplantation of the latissimus dorsi is performed using the same technique, except that an appropriately sized segment of skin is left attached to the muscle (Fig. 71-9).

Unipolar Transfer

This description is based on that of Hovnanian (Fig. 71-10).117 The patient is positioned as for the bipolar transfer. The incision begins in the loin, extends along the lateral margin of the latissimus to the posterior axillary fold, and continues across the axilla and downward along the medial arm to the elbow. The muscle is detached from its origin, preserving part of the aponeurosis with it, and is freed up proximally. Branches from the thoracodorsal artery to the serratus anterior muscle are ligated. The muscle is then transferred to the anterior arm, where it is attached to the biceps tendon and periosteal tissues of the bicipital tuberosity. The arm is bandaged to the thorax for 3 to 4 weeks, at which time active and passive exercises are started.

The posterosuperior muscle fibers are shorter than the anteroinferior muscles; therefore, one must ensure that all muscle fibers are anchored caudally as well as cranially.70,153


Experience is with small patient samples.11,27,117 Zancolli and Mitre254 observed eight patients who had had bipolar transplantation of the latissimus dorsi for more than 4 years. Active range of flexion was 105 to 140 degrees, and flexion strength varied from 0.7 to 5 kg. Flexion contractures of 10 degrees and 15 degrees occurred in two, and active supination of 20 to 50 degrees was achieved in six. Takami and others230 reported on two patients. One obtained elbow motion from 0 to 125 degrees and supination of 30 degrees and could lift 3 kg; the other had motion from 0 to 130 degrees with 60 degrees of supination and could lift 2 kg. Moneim and Omer171 achieved satisfactory flexion (100 degrees or more) in three of five patients. The two others achieved 65 to 70 degrees of flexion and initially had paralysis of the latissimus dorsi, so they were advised that the procedure should not be done unless the muscle was normal. Preoperative EMG evaluation of the muscle was recommended. Hirayama and associates111 reported four excellent results, three good results, and one failure among eight patients who had transfers of the latissimus dorsi. Botte and Wood28 noted satisfactory function in four of five patients treated with unipolar or bipolar latissimus dorsi transfer, and flexion that averaged 87 degrees (range 35 to 130). Chen48 achieved satisfactory function with average motion from 32 degrees of extension to 126 degrees of flexion in six patients who had bipolar transfers of the latissimus dorsi. They could lift only 1.5 to 2.5 kg, which was sufficient for most activities of daily living but not for heavy manual work. Concurrent skin coverage with restoration of elbow flexion is accomplished nicely with a latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flap.33,112,199,225 Clinical evidence of a functional deficit after transfer or transplantation of the latissimus dorsi is unusual. Russell and coworkers203 did document some minimal changes in shoulder strength and range of motion after transfer or transplantation of the latissimus dorsi in 24 patients.

Patients are able to hold weights between 8 and 15 kg,18 and up to 115 degrees of elbow flexion can be achieved (Fig. 71-11).171 Haninec and Smrcka102 reported M3 flexion up to 120 degrees at 16 months, unchanged from 5 months, in two patients.

Pectoralis Muscle Transfer


The first use of the pectoralis major muscle to restore elbow flexion was reported in the European literature in 1917 by Schulze-Berge,209 who transferred its tendon of insertion directly into the belly of the biceps. Subsequent modifications of the method of insertion of the pectoralis major included the use of fascia lata or strands of silk to form tendons of insertion, either into the biceps tendon or directly into the ulna.115,137,138,198 Clark59 reported the first really successful physiologic transfer of the pectoralis major in 1946. In his procedure, the sternocostal origin of the muscle with its separate nerve (medial pectoral) and blood supply was mobilized, passed subcutaneously down the upper arm, and attached to the biceps tendon. Seddon modified Clark’s operation by elevating a segment of rectus abdominis sheath in continuity with the distal end of the transplant to act as a tendon.210

Brooks and Seddon34 described a unipolar transfer of the entire pectoralis major muscle, employing the devascularized long head of the biceps as its tendon of insertion. They recommended this operation instead of a Clark transfer when either the lower part of the pectoralis major was paralyzed but the clavicular head strong, or the whole muscle was weak.213

In 1955, Schottstaedt and others first reported bipolar transplantation of the chondrosternal portion (lower two thirds) of the pectoralis major on its neurovascular pedicle to restore elbow flexion.207 The humeral insertion was detached and shifted to the coracoid process, and the origin was transplanted to the biceps tendon. Carroll and Kleinman46 transplanted the entire pectoralis major muscle on both of its neurovascular pedicles. The muscle origin with its attached anterior rectus abdominis sheath was attached to the biceps tendon, and its tendon of insertion was secured to the anterior aspect of the acromion. With bipolar transplantation of the entire muscle, they noted increased shoulder stability, which obviated shoulder arthrodesis and improved mechanical efficiency for elbow flexion as compared with the unipolar transfer. Matory and coworkers157 transferred the lower sternocostal portion of the muscle with a 4-cm portion of rectus sheath mobilized with the medial and lateral pectoral nerves and accompanying vessels. The muscle was “tubularized” and woven through the biceps tendon, and the transverse aponeurosis was repaired to restore a pulley. Separate midline and deltopectoral incisions were used to avoid the undesirable scar from the standard pectoralis transfer approach.

Tsai and associates239 added unipolar transfer of the pectoralis minor muscle to a bipolar pectoralis major transplant, noting excellent strength of elbow flexion without endangering the two muscles’ common neurovascular bundles. The lateral half of the clavicular origin of the pectoralis major was left intact to preserve shoulder adduction.

The first transfer of the pectoralis minor to the paralyzed biceps to restore elbow flexion was done in 1910 by Bradford.30 Spira219 reported on one patient who had complete paralysis of the pectoralis major secondary to poliomyelitis who enjoyed excellent function after the transfer of the origin of the pectoralis minor into the distal biceps. Alnot7 recommended transferring the pectoralis minor to the biceps at the time of plexus exploration and nerve repair.

Concerns such as diminished excursion, the obligatory supination of the forearm, and the oblique scar on the chest have been the focus of several modifications to the technique. Especially in women, there are cosmetic concerns because the procedure may create breast asymmetry.155 Another concern has been that the pectoralis major muscle is not strong enough to substitute for the biceps in cases of complete absence of elbow flexion.218


Phylogenetically, the pectoralis major muscle evolved from three separate ones, and today it has a segmental configuration with an independent neurovascular supply (Fig. 71-12). The pectoralis major muscle has two constant (clavicular and sternocostal) subunits, and in about half of humans, an abdominal subunit.236 The clavicular portion of the muscle originates from the medial third of the clavicle. The sternocostal portion arises from the anterior surface of the manubrium and the body of the sternum and cartilage of the first six ribs. The abdominal portion, when present, arises from the aponeurosis of the external oblique muscle and is found posterior to the axillary border of the sternocostal portion. The lateral pectoral nerve, derived from the lateral cord and containing fibers from nerve roots C5, C6, and C7, supplies the clavicular and upper portions of the sternocostal parts of the muscle. The medial pectoral nerve, derived from the medial cord and containing fibers from C8 and T1, innervates the lower sternocostal and abdominal parts of the pectoralis major after piercing the pectoralis minor or passing around its lateral edge as it also innervates this muscle. The clavicular and upper sternocostal portions of the pectoralis major are supplied by the pectoral branch of the thoracoacromial artery. The lower sternocostal portion and the abdominal portion, when present, receive their blood supply from the lateral thoracic artery.

Partial Bipolar Transplantation of Pectoralis Major

This description follows that of Schottstaedt and colleagues.207 The muscle is exposed through an incision extending from 2.5 cm distal to the margin of the axilla along the lateral border of the pectoralis major muscle to within 5 cm of the midline. The lower half of the pectoralis major muscle is detached from its sternocostal origin and separated from the underlying pectoralis minor, care being taken to protect its nerve (medial pectoral) and vascular supply (lateral thoracic arterial branches).

Through a separate 10-cm deltopectoral incision, the pectoralis major tendon of insertion is detached. The clavicular fibers of insertion should be detached from the freed tendon. The lower portion of the muscle is detached from the upper portion in line with its fibers; it is now completely free on its neurovascular pedicle. The biceps tendon is exposed in the distal arm and antecubital space through an oblique 12-cm incision extending from the proximal medial to the distal lateral aspect. A subcutaneous tunnel is created upward to the deltopectoral incision, and the sternocostal origin of the muscle is drawn through the tunnel so that it overlies the paralyzed biceps. The pectoralis muscle is then sewn to the biceps tendon, and the aponeurosis is closed with heavy, nonabsorbable sutures. The distal wound is closed, and the pectoralis major insertion is attached to the conjoined tendon at the coracoid by weaving it through several times. While the proximal suturing is performed, the muscle tension should be maximal with the elbow in about 125 degrees of flexion. At this point, it can be noticed that the pedicle is made more lax by relieving some of the downward pull placed on it initially when the muscle was sutured to the distal biceps. According to Schottstaedt and others, an extension of length using rectus abdominis sheath is usually unnecessary.

The postoperative position of immobilization and the exercise program are as described earlier.

Complete Bipolar Transplantation of Pectoralis Major

This procedure is based on that of Carroll and Kleinman46 (Fig. 71-13). The patient is placed in the supine position, with a flat bolster under the blade of the scapula and the upper extremity draped free. A long, curvilinear incision is made from the seventh sternocostal joint proximally to two fingerbreadths inferior to the clavicle. The incision continues laterally to the coracoid process, then distally along the anteromedial aspect of the arm to the level of the axilla.