Purpose: Increasing emphasis has been placed on multidisciplinary care for patients with traumatic brachial plexus injury (BPI), and there has been a growing appreciation for the impact of psychological and emotional components of recovery. Because surgeons are typically charged with leading the recovery phase of BPI, our objective was to build a greater understanding of surgeons’ perspectives on the care of BPI patients and potential areas for improvement in care delivery. Methods: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews with 14 surgeons with expertise in BPI reconstruction. The interview guide contained questions regarding the surgeons’ practice and care team structure, their attitudes and approaches to psychological and emotional aspects of recovery, and their preferences for setting patient expectations. We used inductive thematic analysis to identify themes. Results: There was a high degree of variability in how surgeons addressed emotional and psychological aspects of recovery. Whereas some surgeons embraced the practice of addressing these components of care, others felt strongly that BPI surgeons should remain focused on technical aspects of care. Several participants described the emotional toll that caring for BPI patients can have on surgeons and how this concern has affected their approach to care. Surgeons also recognized the importance of setting preoperative expectations. There was an emphasis on setting low expectations in an attempt to minimize the risk for dissatisfaction. Surgeons described the challenges in effectively counseling patients about a condition that is prone to substantial injury heterogeneity and variability in functional outcomes. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate wide variability in how surgeons address emotional, psychological, and social barriers to recovery for BPI patients. Clinical relevance: Best practices for BPI care are difficult to establish because of the relative heterogeneity of neurologic injury, the unpredictable impact and recovery of the patient, and the substantial variability in physician approach to the care of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery Global Online
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Emotional recovery
  • Expectations
  • Peripheral nerve
  • Psychological recovery


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