PURPOSE: Muscle-in-vein conduits provide an alternative for bridging digital nerve defects when tension-free suture is not possible. Low donor site morbidity and absence of additional costs are favorable advantages compared with autografts or conduits.
METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 37 patients with 43 defects of proper palmar digital nerves. Primary repair by muscle-in-vein conduits was performed in 22 cases, whereas 21 cases underwent secondary reconstruction. Recovery of sensibility was assessed using static and moving 2-point discrimination and Semmes-Weinstein monofilament testing. Results were compared with the contralateral side serving as a control. Outcome data were stratified according to international guidelines and evaluated for differences in terms of age, gap length, time of reconstruction, and concomitant injuries.
RESULTS: The median gap length was 20 mm (range, 9-60 mm). After a median follow-up of 25.0 months (interquartile range, 29.0 months), the median static and moving 2-point discrimination were 7.0 mm and 5.0 mm (interquartile range, 3.0 mm), respectively. The evaluation with Semmes-Weinstein monofilament revealed a median reduction of sensibility of 2 levels compared with the contralateral side. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand guidelines, 81.4% of the results were classified as excellent or good, whereas fair and poor results were noted in 9.3% of the cases each. The modified Highet and Sander's criteria rated complete clinical recovery in 13 cases; 23 results were regarded as S3+.
CONCLUSIONS: Muscle-in-vein conduits can be considered for primary and secondary reconstruction of digital nerves. Successful sensory recovery in terms of measurable 2-point discrimination was achieved in 91% of all cases.
TYPE OF STUDY/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic IV.