Ultrasonography for neonatal brachial plexus palsy

Case report

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  • 1 Departments of Neurosurgery and
  • 2 Radiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Ultrasonography has previously been reported for use in the evaluation of compressive or traumatic peripheral nerve pathology and for its utility in preoperative mapping. However, these studies were not performed in infants, and they were not focused on the brachial plexus. The authors report a case in which ultrasonography was used to improve operative management of neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP). An infant boy was born at term, complicated by right-sided shoulder dystocia. Initial clinical evaluation revealed proximal arm weakness consistent with an upper trunk injury. Unlike MRI or CT myelography that focus on proximal nerve roots, ultrasonography of the brachial plexus in the supraclavicular fossa was able to demonstrate a small neuroma involving the upper trunk (C-5 and C-6) and no asymmetry in movement of the diaphragm or in the appearance of the rhomboid muscle when compared with the unaffected side. However, the supra- and infraspinatus muscles were significantly asymmetrical and atrophied on the affected side. Importantly, ultrasound examination of the shoulder revealed posterior glenohumeral laxity. Instead of pursuing the primary nerve reconstruction first, timely treatment of the shoulder subluxation prevented formation of joint dysplasia and formation of a false glenoid, which is a common sequela of this condition. Because the muscles innervated by proximal branches of the cervical nerve roots/trunks were radiographically normal, subsequent nerve transfers were performed and good functional results were achieved. The authors believe this to be the first report describing the utility of ultrasonography in the surgical treatment planning in a case of NBPP. Noninvasive imaging, in addition to thorough history and physical examination, reduces the intraoperative time required to determine the extent and severity of nerve injury by allowing improved preoperative planning of the surgical strategy. Inclusion of ultrasonography as a preoperative modality may yield improved outcomes for children with NBPP.

Abbreviation used in this paper:NBPP = neonatal brachial plexus palsy.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Lynda J. S. Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of Michigan, 1500 E. Medical Center Dr., Rm. 3552 TC, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5338. email: ljsyang@med.umich.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online September 12, 2014; DOI: 10.3171/2014.7.PEDS14108.

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