Lesions of the spinal accessory nerve are usually iatrogenic, especially after lymph node extirpation on the neck. Between 1994 and 2003, 31 patients were operated on in the Neurosurgical Department of the University of Ulm for iatrogenic lesions of the XIth cranial nerve. Of 31 patients, 22 had undergone a previous lymph node extirpation, 2 had been injured during a selective peripheral denervation for spasmodic torticollis, and the other 7 patients by different causes. The neurosurgical intervention was performed 0-19 months after trauma (mean 7.2 months). All patients showed paresis/atrophy of the trapezius muscle, and the abduction of the shoulder was markedly reduced. Additional neck and/or shoulder pain was present in 29 of 31 cases. In seven cases, the nerve was compressed by scar tissue and subsequently treated by external neurolysis. Ten patients underwent an end-to-end anastomosis; autologous sural nerve grafting was necessary in 13 cases. After a mean follow-up of 12.6 months, 7 of 31 patients completely recovered. Of 31 patients, 19 experienced partial relief of pain and weakness. Only five patients remained unchanged. The clinical findings after autologous nerve grafting, end-to-end reconstruction, or external neurolysis did not show any significant differences. Microsurgical reconstruction of iatrogenic injury of the spinal accessory nerve is very promising if the interval between trauma and surgical revision is less than 6 months. Up to 12 months, partial recovery can be achieved. Outcome after longer delay is unsatisfactory.