Muscle changes in brachial plexus birth injury with elbow flexion contracture: an MRI study

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Muscle pathology of the arm and forearm in brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI) with elbow flexion contracture has not been evaluated with MRI.


To determine whether limited range of motion of the elbow in BPBI is correlated with specific patterns of muscular pathology.

Materials and methods

For 15 BPBI patients, total active motion (TAM) of the elbow (extension-flexion) and the forearm (pronation-supination) were measured. MRI of the elbow joints and musculature allowed assessment of elbow congruency. Fatty infiltration and size reduction of the muscles were graded semiquantitatively.


Mean TAM of the elbow was 113° (50°-140°) and that of the forearm 91° (10°-165°). The greater the size reduction of the brachioradialis muscle, the more diminished was elbow TAM. The more extensive the BPBI and muscle pathology of the pronator teres muscle, the more limited was the TAM of the forearm. Pathology of the supinator and brachialis muscles was evident in every patient.


Extensive BPBI may result in marked limitation of TAM. Elbow flexion contracture seems to be caused mainly by brachialis muscle pathology. Prosupination of the forearm is better preserved when the pronator teres is not severely affected. MRI can reliably show the extent of muscle pathology in BPBI.

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