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Concept: Ulnar nerve


Patients with spinal cord injury lack the connections between brain and spinal cord circuits that are essential for voluntary movement. Clinical systems that achieve muscle contraction through functional electrical stimulation (FES) have proven to be effective in allowing patients with tetraplegia to regain control of hand movements and to achieve a greater measure of independence in daily activities. In existing clinical systems, the patient uses residual proximal limb movements to trigger pre-programmed stimulation that causes the paralysed muscles to contract, allowing use of one or two basic grasps. Instead, we have developed an FES system in primates that is controlled by recordings made from microelectrodes permanently implanted in the brain. We simulated some of the effects of the paralysis caused by C5 or C6 spinal cord injury by injecting rhesus monkeys with a local anaesthetic to block the median and ulnar nerves at the elbow. Then, using recordings from approximately 100 neurons in the motor cortex, we predicted the intended activity of several of the paralysed muscles, and used these predictions to control the intensity of stimulation of the same muscles. This process essentially bypassed the spinal cord, restoring to the monkeys voluntary control of their paralysed muscles. This achievement is a major advance towards similar restoration of hand function in human patients through brain-controlled FES. We anticipate that in human patients, this neuroprosthesis would allow much more flexible and dexterous use of the hand than is possible with existing FES systems.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Spinal cord, Muscle, Primate, Paralysis, Hand, Ulnar nerve


To evaluate T2-signal of high-resolution MRI in distal ulnar nerve branches at the wrist as diagnostic sign of guyon’s-canal-syndrome (GCS).

Concepts: Forearm, Ulnar nerve, Carpal tunnel, Ulnar artery, Ulnar nerve entrapment, Ulnar canal, Guyon's canal syndrome


Hand loss is a highly disabling event that markedly affects the quality of life. To achieve a close to natural replacement for the lost hand, the user should be provided with the rich sensations that we naturally perceive when grasping or manipulating an object. Ideal bidirectional hand prostheses should involve both a reliable decoding of the user’s intentions and the delivery of nearly “natural” sensory feedback through remnant afferent pathways, simultaneously and in real time. However, current hand prostheses fail to achieve these requirements, particularly because they lack any sensory feedback. We show that by stimulating the median and ulnar nerve fascicles using transversal multichannel intrafascicular electrodes, according to the information provided by the artificial sensors from a hand prosthesis, physiologically appropriate (near-natural) sensory information can be provided to an amputee during the real-time decoding of different grasping tasks to control a dexterous hand prosthesis. This feedback enabled the participant to effectively modulate the grasping force of the prosthesis with no visual or auditory feedback. Three different force levels were distinguished and consistently used by the subject. The results also demonstrate that a high complexity of perception can be obtained, allowing the subject to identify the stiffness and shape of three different objects by exploiting different characteristics of the elicited sensations. This approach could improve the efficacy and “life-like” quality of hand prostheses, resulting in a keystone strategy for the near-natural replacement of missing hands.

Concepts: Control theory, Cybernetics, Information, Feedback, Object, Control system, Hand, Ulnar nerve


Purpose: Snapping ulnar nerve syndrome (dislocation of the ulnar nerve over the medial epicondyle) is one of many causes of ulnar neuropathy at the elbow. This preliminary study was performed to search for sonographic signs suggesting the presence of this condition.Methods and Materials: We retrospectively investigated 11 patients with snapping ulnar nerve syndrome (SNAP) in comparison with an age-matched group of 20 patients with idiopathic cubital tunnel syndrome (SNU). Patients were grouped according to the presence of paretic or merely sensory deficits. Nerve cross section area (CSA) and thickness of outer epineurium (ET) was measured and correlated with neurological findings. Statistical differences were evaluated with the Mann-Whitney U-Test.Results: 5 SNAP (10 SNU) patients had sensory symptoms only, 6 SNAP (10 SNU) patients had paretic deficits. CSA in sensory SNU was 0.14 cm2, in paretic SNU 0.19 cm2, in sensory SNAP 0.15 cm2 and in paretic SNAP 0.14 cm2. ET in sensory SNU was 0.85 mm, 0.8 mm in paretic SNU, 1.05 mm in sensory SNAP and 1.1 in paretic SNAP. Differences in CSA were not significant depending on symptoms or group, differences in ET were not significant depending on symptoms but on group (SNAP versus SNU) at α = 0.05.Conclusion: A thickened, hyperechoic outer epineurium in a patient with ulnar neuropathy at the elbow might be a statistically significant differential feature of snapping ulnar nerve syndrome and should be involved in a further functional sonographic evaluation during flexion/extension of the elbow.

Concepts: Statistics, Statistical significance, Humerus, Upper limb anatomy, Ulnar nerve, Median nerve, Cubital tunnel, Ulnar nerve entrapment


BACKGROUND: Since the 18th century, the existence of ulnar nerve innervation of the medial head of the triceps brachii muscle has been controversial. The evidence for or against such innervation has been based on macroscopic dissection, an unsuitable method for studying intraneural topography or intramuscular branching. The study of smaller specimens (embryos or fetuses) by means of serial histologic sections may resolve the controversy. QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: Using fetal specimens and histology we determined the contributions of the ulnar and radial nerves to innervation of the triceps brachii muscle. METHODS: We histologically examined 15 embryonic and fetal arms. Radial nerve branches obtained from six adult arms were analyzed immunohistochemically to determine motor fiber content. RESULTS: The medial head of the triceps brachii muscle was always innervated by the radial nerve (ulnar collateral branch). The branches seeming to leave the ulnar nerve at elbow level were the continuation of the radial nerve that had joined the ulnar nerve sheath via a connection in the axillary region. Immunohistochemistry revealed motor and nonmotor fibers in this radial nerve branch. CONCLUSIONS: A connection between the radial and ulnar nerves sometimes may exist, resulting in an apparent ulnar nerve origin of muscular branches to the medial head of the triceps, even though in all our specimens the fibers could be traced back to the radial nerve. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Before performing or suggesting new muscle and nerve transpositions using this apparent ulnar innervation, the real origin should be confirmed to avoid failure.

Concepts: Muscle, Biceps brachii muscle, Triceps brachii muscle, Nerve, Ulnar nerve, Brachial plexus, Radial nerve, Radial sulcus


OBJECTIVE: To compare ultrasound measurement of median nerve cross-sectional area (CSA) at different anatomical landmarks and to assess the value of power Doppler signals within the median nerve for diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). METHODS: A prospective study of 135 consecutive patients with suspected CTS undergoing two visits within 3 months. A final diagnosis of CTS was established by clinical and electrophysiological findings. CSA was sonographically measured at five different levels at forearm and wrist; and CSA wrist to forearm ratios or differences were calculated. Intraneural power Doppler signals were semiquantitatively graded. Diagnostic values of different ultrasound methods were compared by receiver operating characteristic curves using SPSS. RESULTS: CTS was diagnosed in 111 (45.5%) wrists; 84 (34.4%) had no CTS and 49 (20.1%) were possible CTS cases. Diagnostic values were comparable for all sonographic methods to determine median nerve swelling, with area under the curves ranging from 0.75 to 0.85. Thresholds of 9.8 and 13.8 mm(2) for the largest CSA of the median nerve yielded a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 92%. A power Doppler score of 2 or greater had a specificity of 90% for the diagnosis of CTS. Sonographic median nerve volumetry revealed a good reliability with an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.90 (95% CI 0.79 to 0.95). CONCLUSIONS: Sonographic assessment of median nerve swelling and vascularity allows for a reliable diagnosis of CTS. Determination of CSA at its maximal shape offers an easily reproducible tool for CTS classification in daily clinical practice.

Concepts: Diagnosis, Medical ultrasonography, Wrist, Ulnar nerve, Carpal tunnel, Carpal tunnel syndrome, Median nerve, Carpus


Endoscopic cubital tunnel release was originally described in 1989 by Tsai, and his technique has been modified by other surgeons including Mirza and Cobb. In 2006, Hoffmann and Siemionow described an endoscopic technique quite different from Tsai’s original description. Instead of working from the “inside out,” Hoffmann’s technique is performed through an incision similar to that which would be used for an in situ release of the ulnar nerve. The main difference being that the nerve can be explored and decompressed 10 cm proximal and distal to the arcuate ligament as the surgeon looks down on the nerve and the surrounding tissues while viewing the anatomy through a camera attached to a soft tissue endoscope that is inserted in the wound. The arcuate (Osborne’s) ligament is released under direct vision much like a standard in situ decompression. Using a blunt dissection instrument, a workspace is created proximally and distally to the cubital tunnel. Next an illuminated speculum is introduced, the nerve is directly visualized between 4 and 5 cm proximal and distal to the cubital tunnel, and potential compressive forearm fasciae or fibrous bands are released. Finally, a 15-cm, 30° soft tissue endoscope is introduced into the incision, and viewing the internal anatomy on a video monitor, the decompression continues using longer scissors. Any potential bleeding is controlled with a long bayonet bipolar cautery. The authors discuss indications, contraindications, and the surgical technique. Postoperative management and associated complications are also discussed.

Concepts: Surgery, Tissues, Surgeon, Ulnar nerve, Ulnar artery, Cubital tunnel, Ulnar nerve entrapment, Cauterization


BACKGROUND: Historically, the anterolateral interscalene block-deposition of local anesthetic adjacent to the brachial plexus roots/trunks-has been used for surgical procedures involving the shoulder. The resulting block frequently failed to provide surgical anesthesia of the hand and forearm, even though the brachial plexus at this level included all of the axons of the upper-extremity terminal nerves. However, it remains unknown whether deposition of local anesthetic adjacent to the seventh cervical root or inferior trunk results in anesthesia of the hand and forearm. METHODS: Using ultrasound guidance and a needle-in-plane posterior approach, a Tuohy needle was positioned with the tip located between the deepest and next-deepest visualized brachial plexus root/trunk, followed by injection of mepivacaine (1.5%). Grip strength and the tolerance to cutaneous electrical current in 5 terminal nerve distributions were measured at baseline and then every 5 minutes following injection for a total of 30 minutes. The primary end point was the proportion of cases in which the interscalene nerve block resulted in a decrease in grip strength of at least 90% and hand and forearm anesthesia (tolerance to >50 mA of current in all 5 terminal nerve distributions) within 30 minutes. The primary hypothesis was that a single-injection interscalene brachial plexus block produces a similar rate of anesthesia of the hand and forearm to the published success rate of 95% for other brachial plexus block approaches. RESULTS: Of 55 subjects with blocks placed per protocol, all had a successful block of the shoulder as defined by inability to abduct at the shoulder joint. Thirty-three subjects had measurements at 30 minutes following local anesthetic deposition, and only 5 (15%) of these subjects had a surgical block of the hand and forearm (P < 0.0001; 95% confidence interval, 6%-33%). We therefore reject the hypothesis that the interscalene block as performed in this study provides equivalent anesthesia to the hand and forearm compared with other brachial plexus block techniques. Block failures of the hand and forearm were due to inadequate cutaneous anesthesia of the ulnar (n = 27; 82%), median (n = 26; 78%), or radial (n = 22; 67%) distributions; the medial forearm (n = 25; 76%); and/or the lateral forearm (n = 14; 42%). Failure to achieve at least a 90% reduction in grip strength occurred in 16 subjects (48%). CONCLUSIONS: This study did not find evidence to support the hypothesis that local anesthetic injected adjacent to the deepest brachial plexus roots/trunks reliably results in surgical anesthesia of the hand and forearm.

Concepts: Surgery, Anesthesia, Local anesthesia, Forearm, Ulnar nerve, Local anesthetic, Brachial plexus, Nerve block


Background and purpose Humeral lengthening and deformity correction are now being done increasingly for various etiologies. Monolateral external fixators have advantages over traditional Ilizarov circular fixators; they are easy to apply, they are less bulky, and they are therefore more convenient for the patient. We assessed the effectiveness of hybrid monolateral lateral fixators in humeral lengthening and deformity correction. Methods We retrospectively reviewed 23 patients (40 humeri) with various pathologies who underwent lengthening-with or without deformity correction using monolateral external fixator-between 2003 and 2008. Mean age at the time of the surgery was 14 (10-22) years. The mean follow-up time was 3.4 (1-7) years. Results The average duration of external fixator use was 8.3 (6-19) months. The mean lengthening achieved was 8.8 (4-11) cm and percentage lengthening was 49% (19-73). The healing index was 28 (13-60) days/cm. The major complications were refracture in 3 humeri and varus angulation of 2 humeri. The minor complications were superficial pin tract infection (6 segments), transient radial nerve palsy (1 segment), and elbow flexion contracture (5 segments). All complications resolved. Interpretation Hybrid monolateral fixators can be used for humeral lengthening and deformity correction. The advantage over circular fixators is that they are less bulky and patients can perform their day-to-day activities with the fixator in situ.

Concepts: Patient, Varus deformity, Arithmetic mean, Extension, Ulnar nerve, Brachioradialis, External fixation, Radial neuropathy


The wide-awake hand surgery (WAHS) technique involves injecting lidocaine with adrenaline for hand surgical procedures that are done without the use of tourniquets, sedation, regional or general anaesthetic. This is a retrospective review of the first 100 consecutive patients who underwent operations using this technique at our centre. The operations included carpal and cubital tunnel decompression, trapeziectomy, tendon transfer, and tenolysis. A questionnaire adapted from Lalonde’s previous work on wide-awake surgery was used to assess patients' experiences. Sixty-five percent of the patients responded to the postal questionnaire, the majority reporting a high satisfaction level. Ninety-one percent of responders reported that the operation was less painful or comparable with a procedure at the dentist; 86% would prefer to be wide-awake if they needed to have hand surgery again, and 90% stated they would recommend WAHS to a friend.

Concepts: Hospital, Surgery, Physician, Anesthesia, Dentistry, Upper limb anatomy, Ulnar nerve, Cubital tunnel