Spinal accessory nerve palsy leads to painful disability of the shoulder, carrying an uncertain prognosis. We reviewed the long-term outcome in 16 patients who were treated for pain, weakness of active elevation and asymmetry of the shoulder and the neck due to chronic paralysis of the trapezius muscle, as a result of nerve palsy. Of four patients who were treated conservatively, none regained satisfactory function, although two became pain-free. The other 12 patients were treated operatively with transfer of the levator scapulae to the acromion and the rhomboid muscles to the infraspinatus fossa (the Eden-Lange procedure). At a mean follow-up of 32 years, the clinical outcome of the operatively treated patients was excellent in nine, fair in two, and poor in one patient, as determined by the Constant score. Pain was adequately relieved in 11 and overhead function was restored in nine patients. Pre-operative electromyography had been carried out in four patients. In two, who eventually had a poor outcome, a concomitant long thoracic and dorsal scapular nerve lesion had been present.

The Eden-Lange procedure gives very satisfactory long-term results for the treatment of isolated paralysis of trapezius. In the presence of an additional serratus anterior palsy or weak rhomboid muscles, the procedure is less successful in restoring shoulder function.

  • Received January 17, 2003.
  • Accepted July 9, 2003.