Morbidity of Nerve Transfers for Brachial Plexus Birth Injury: A Systematic Review

Katharine M. Hinchcliff, Nicholas Pulos, Alexander Y. Shin, Christopher Stutz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background:The purpose of this article is to systematically review the peer-reviewed literature on the morbidity of nerve transfers performed in patients with brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI). Nerve transfers for restoration of function in patients with BPBI that fail nonoperative management are increasing in popularity. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the morbidity of these transfers in the growing patient. The authors systematically review the current literature regarding donor site morbidity following nerve transfer for BPBI.Methods:A systematic review of the Medline and EMBASE databases was conducted through February 2020. Primary research articles written in English and reporting donor site morbidity after nerve transfer for BPBI were included for review.Results:Thirty-six articles met inclusion criteria, all of which were retrospective reviews or case reports. There was great heterogeneity in outcomes assessed. With 5 year or less follow-up, all transfers were relatively well tolerated with the exception of the hypoglossal nerve transfer.Conclusion:Nerve transfers are a well-recognized treatment strategy for patients with BPBI and have an acceptable risk profile in the short term. Full hypoglossal nerve transfers for BPBI are of historical interest. Donor site morbidity is grossly underreported. This review highlights the need for more objective and systematic reporting of donor site outcomes, and the need for longer term follow-up in these patients.Level of Evidence:Systematic review. Level III - therapeutic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E188-E198
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • brachial plexus
  • brachial plexus birth injury
  • nerve transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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