Predictive Value of Computed Tomographic Myelography in Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Palsy

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Preoperative radiologic studies to detect root avulsions of the brachial plexus caused by birth trauma are considered useful in assisting with surgical planning for reconstruction. In this study, the predictive value of computed tomographic (CT) myelography in detecting nerve root avulsions at our institution was determined. Sixty-three consecutive patients with an obstetrical brachial plexus palsy who had had both preoperative CT myelography and reconstructive surgery were selected. All CT myelograms were analyzed post hoc by a single neuroradiologist in a manner blind to the surgical findings. At each root level of the brachial plexus, the presence of a pseudomeningocele was noted along with the presence or absence of rootlets within each identified pseudomeningocele. Extraforaminal root avulsions later determined at surgery were reviewed by a single surgeon in a manner blind to the radiographic results. Surgical and radiographic findings were then compared at each corresponding root level. A total of 281 roots were examined. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and likelihood ratio for root avulsions with pseudomeningoceles were 0.63, 0.85, 0.40, and 4.2, respectively. For pseudomeningoceles for which rootlets traversing the sac could not be identified, these values were 0.37, 0.98, 0.74, and 18.5, respectively. The presence of pseudomeningoceles with or without rootlets was not a sensitive indicator of root avulsions. Root avulsions were better predicted by identifying the absence of rootlets in a pseudomeningocele. This absence on CT myelography may be used to suggest an extraforaminal root avulsion due to its high specificity and high likelihood ratio.

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