C5 palsy

C5 palsy is a known cause of postoperative deltoid muscle weakness. Prognostic variables affecting the incidence of the palsy have been poorly understood.

All patients undergoing C4-5 operations for degenerative conditions were retrospectively reviewed over 21 years. Anterior operations included an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) or a corpectomy, whereas posterior operations included laminectomy and fusion (± foraminotomy).

Of the total 1001 operations, in 49.0% anterior and 51.0% posterior cases, there was an overall C5 palsy incidence of 5.2% (52 cases): 1.6% and 8.6%, respectively (P < .001). Of the 99 corpectomies, the palsy incidence of 4.0% was not only higher than ACDFs (1.0%), but also followed an upward trend with increasing corpectomy levels (P = .009). Of the 69 posterior and 83 anterior C4-5 foraminotomies, the incidence of C5 palsy was statistically higher in the posterior (14.5%) vs anterior (2.4%) cohort (P = .01). Multiple logistical regression identified older age as the strongest predictor of C5 palsy in the anterior (P = .02) and C4-5 foraminotomy in the posterior (P = .06) cohort. This condition improved within 3 to 6 months in 75% of patients in the anterior and 88.6% in the posterior cohort after a mean follow-up of 14.4 and 27.6 months, respectively.

In one of the largest cohorts on C5 palsy, Bydon et al., found in anterior operations an increasing number of corpectomy levels had a higher incidence of C5 palsy; however, older age was the strongest predictor of C5 palsy. In posterior operations, C4-5 foraminotomy carried the strongest correlation 1).

1) Bydon M, Macki M, Kaloostian P, Sciubba DM, Wolinsky JP, Gokaslan ZL, Belzberg AJ, Bydon A, Witham TF. Incidence and prognostic factors of c5 palsy: a clinical study of 1001 cases and review of the literature. Neurosurgery. 2014 Jun;74(6):595-604; discussion 604-5. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000000322. PubMed PMID: 24561867.

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