An Update on the Management of Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsy-Replacing Old Paradigms: A Review.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Importance: Neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) can result in persistent deficits for those who develop it. Advances in surgical technique have resulted in the availability of safe, reliable options for treatment. Prevailing paradigms include, "all neonatal brachial plexus palsy recovers," "wait a year to see if recovery occurs," and "don't move the arm." Practicing by these principles places these patients at a disadvantage. Thus, the importance of this review is to provide an update on the management of NBPP to replace old beliefs with new paradigms. Observations: Changes within denervated muscle begin at the moment of injury, but without reinnervation become irreversible 18 to 24 months following denervation. These time-sensitive, irreversible changes are the scientific basis for the recommendations herein for the early management of NBPP and put into question the old paradigms. Early referral has become increasingly important because improved outcomes can be achieved using new management algorithms that allow surgery to be offered to patients unlikely to recover sufficiently with conservative management. Mounting evidence supports improved outcomes for appropriately selected patients with surgical management compared with natural history. Primary nerve surgery options now include nerve graft repair and nerve transfer. Specific indications continue to be elucidated, but both techniques offer a significant chance of restoration of function. Conclusions and Relevance: Mounting data support both the safety and effectiveness of surgery for patients with persistent NBPP. Despite this support, primary nerve surgery for NBPP continues to be underused. Surgery is but one part of the multidisciplinary care of NBPP. Early referral and implementation of multidisciplinary strategies give these children the best chance of functional recovery. Primary care physicians, nerve surgeons, physiatrists, and occupational and physical therapists must partner to continue to modify current treatment paradigms to provide improved quality care to neonates and children affected by NBPP.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Smith, BW; Daunter, AK; Yang, LJ-S; Wilson, TJ

Published Date

  • June 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 172 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 585 - 591

PubMed ID

  • 29710183

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2168-6211

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.0124


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States