Risk factors for persistent disability in children with obstetric brachial plexus palsy

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Obstetric brachial plexus palsy (OBPP) at birth, is a serious neurologic injury that may lead to a long lasting disability. We aimed to examine the occurrence and risk factors associated with disability lasting >1 year.


A retrospective cohort study conducted between 1993 and 2012 included individuals with diagnosis of OBPP at birth. Affected individual's motor function was evaluated by a direct physical exam based on a muscle grading system of the limb, shoulder, elbow and hand. When not feasible a telephone questionnaire was used. Participants reported on activities of daily living, disability duration and any type of intervention. Stepwise logistic regression model was used to identify demographic and obstetric risk factors for disability lasting >1 year.


Of all 83 806 deliveries during this period, 144 OBPP cases were identified (1.7/1000). Of the 91 (63.2%) individuals located 42 (46.2%) were evaluated by a physical exam and 49 (53.8%) answered a telephone questionnaire. In 12 (13.2%) disability lasted >1 year. Significant predictors for disability lasting >1 year included birthweight >4 kg (P = 0.02; odds ratio (OR) 6.17; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.33-28.65) and younger maternal age (P = 0.02; OR 0.84; 95% CI: 0.73-0.97). OBPP decreased 16% per 1 year increase in maternal age.


OBPP is a transient injury in most cases. Birthweight over 4 kg and younger maternal age maybe associated with disability lasting >1 year.

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