Comparative accuracies of electrodiagnostic and imaging studies in neonatal brachial plexus palsy

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The incorporation of ancillary testing in the preoperative setting for patients with neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) remains controversial, but the recommendation for early nerve reconstruction when a baby has a preganglionic lesion at the lower nerve roots is generally accepted. At some specialty centers, nerve surgeons use preoperative electrodiagnostic testing (EDX) and imaging to aid in lesion localization and the preoperative planning of the nerve reconstruction. EDX and imaging have been evaluated for their abilities to detect pre- and postganglionic lesions, but their accuracies have never been compared directly in the same set of patients. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the accuracy of imaging and EDX in an NBPP population.


A retrospective review was conducted of 54 patients with operative NBPP seen between 2007 and 2017. The patients underwent EDX and imaging: EDX was performed, and the results were reviewed by board-certified electrodiagnosticians, and imaging was reviewed by board-certified neuroradiologists. The gold standard was considered to be the findings at surgical exploration. Descriptive and analytical statistics were utilized to compare the accuracies of imaging and EDX.


The mean age at surgery was 6.94 mos (± 4 mos). Fifteen patients (28%) were Narakas grade I–II, and 39 (72%) were Narakas grade III–IV. For all nerve roots, the overall accuracy of detecting preganglionic lesions was 74% for EDX and 69% for imaging. The overall sensitivity of detecting preganglionic lesions by EDX was 31%, but the specificity was 90%. The overall sensitivity of detecting preganglionic lesions by imaging was 66%, and the overall specificity was 70%. However, at C8, EDX was 37.5% sensitive and 87.5% specific, whereas imaging was 67.7% sensitive but only 29.4% specific.


EDX outperformed imaging with regard to specificity and accuracy of identifying preganglionic injuries. This finding is especially relevant in the lower nerve roots, given that lower plexus preganglionic lesions are an accepted indication for early intervention.

ABBREVIATIONS EDX = electrodiagnostic testing; EMG = electromyography; NBPP = neonatal brachial plexus palsy; US = ultrasound.

Article Information

Correspondence Mary Catherine Spires: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online October 5, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.7.PEDS18193.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.




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