Prompt Referral in the Nonoperative Treatment of Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injuries

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Abstract

Background:

Prompt physical and occupational therapy is crucial in managing nonsurgical candidates with obstetrical brachial plexus injuries (OBPI). The objective of our study was to identify newborns suffering from nonoperative OBPI in need of a “fast-track” evaluation by a multidisciplinary team.

Methods:

This is a retrospective review of patients with OBPI from June 1995 to June 2015. All nonsurgical candidates (Narakas class 1) were included in the study. The Gilbert score and the Medical Research Council grading system were used to measure shoulder and elbow function, respectively. The relationship between shoulder and elbow functional outcomes and time delay to consultation was studied using analysis of variance and Welch’s tests. Various subgroups were studied based on OBPI risk factors: maternal diabetes, birth weight >4 kg, use of forceps, asphyxia, multiple comorbidities, and Apgar score at 1 and 5 minutes.

Results:

A total of 168 patients were included in this study. Mean follow-up time was 313.8 weeks (minimum: 52; maximum: 1072; SD: 228.1). A total of 19 patients had an Apgar scores <7 at 5 minutes. Time delay between birth and the first consult to our clinic had an impact on shoulder outcome in the subgroup of newborns with Apgar scores <7 at 5 minutes.

Conclusions:

The subgroup of newborns with an Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes shows improved long-term shoulder function when promptly examined by an OBPI clinic. We recommend a “fast-track” referral for this time-sensitive population.

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