Radial to Axillary Nerve Transfer Outcomes in Shoulder Abduction: A Systematic Review

Matthew E. Wells*, Gilberto A. Gonzalez, Benjamin R. Childs, Matthew R. Williams, Leon J. Nesti, John C. Dunn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Brachial plexus and axillary nerve injuries often result in paralysis of the deltoid muscle. This can be functionally debilitating for patients and have a negative impact on their activities of daily living. In these settings, transferring the branch of the radial nerve innervating the triceps to the axillary nerve is a viable treatment option. Additional nerve transfers may be warranted. This study sought to determine the efficacy of nerve transfer procedures in the setting of brachial plexus and axillary nerve injuries and factors affecting clinical outcomes. Methods: The U.S. National Library of Medicine's website "PubMed" was queried for "radial to axillary nerve transfer" and "brachial plexus nerve transfer." An initial review by two authors was performed to identify relevant articles followed by a third author validation utilizing inclusion and exclusion criteria. Individual patient outcomes were recorded and pooled for final analysis. Results: Of the 80 patients, 66 (82.5%) had clinical improvement after surgical nerve transfer procedures. Significant difference in clinical improvement following nerve transfer procedures was correlated with patient age, mechanism of injury, brachial plexus vs isolated axillary nerve injuries, multiple nerve transfers vs single nerve transfers, and surgery within the first 7 months of injury. The branch of the radial nerve supplying the triceps long head showed improved clinical results compared with the branch of the radial nerve supplying the triceps medial head and anconeus. Conclusion: Nerve transfers have been shown to be effective in restoring shoulder abduction in both isolated axillary nerve injuries and brachial plexus injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E3096
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open
Issue number9
StatePublished - 23 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


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