The use of reverse shoulder arthroplasty (RSA) is becoming more extended and its clinical results are good or excellent according to the literature. The main biomechanical characteristic of RSA is that it lowers and medializes the centre of rotation of the shoulder causing an arm lengthening. Although the number of neurological complications is low (5%), there are more neurophysiological changes in the brachial plexus with RSA than with the anatomic shoulder arthroplasty. The main goal of this study was to quantify the lengthening of the terminal branches of the brachial plexus suffered after RSA implantation.

20 Embalmed cadavers were analysed. Four distances using bone references were employed to measure the lengthening of the arm and subacromial space. The brachial plexus and its terminal branches (radial, axillary, ulnar, musculocutaneous and median nerves) and the axillary artery, were identified and marked. Measurements were made to determine the change of position of the neurovascular structures, the arm lengthening and the lengthening of each nerve before and after the implantation of RSA. Two models of RSA were used: SMR®(Lima) and Delta Xtend®(DePuy-Synthes).

The mean arm elongation was 10.5 mm. The subacromial space suffers an elongation of 20.5-29.8%. All the neurovascular structures suffered elongation: median nerve 23.1%, musculocutaneous nerve 22.1%, ulnar nerve 19%, radial nerve 17%, axillary nerve 12-14.5%, axillary artery 24.8%. There were no differences in the results between the types of prosthesis.

Due to its design, the RSA causes an arm lengthening which is reflected by the elongation of the neurovascular structures of the arm.