Long-term Follow-up of Neonatal Brachial Plexopathy: Psychological and Physical Function in Adolescents and Young Adults

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Abstract

Purpose:

The prevalence of neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) has been increasing since the early 1980s. No known studies have examined long-term psychological health and quality of life (QOL) in young adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychosocial and intellectual aspects of NBPP during adolescence into young adulthood.

Methods:

A total of 31 patients were enrolled in the adolescent group (16 to 18 y) and 25 in the young adult group (23 to 28 y). Clinical assessment included functional ability, range of motion and strength, weight and body mass index, and education level. Patients were administered measures of psychiatric symptomatology, self-concept, QOL, and cognitive function.

Results:

Narakas injury level for the adolescent group included 11 level I, 6 level II, 8 level III, and 6 level IV. The young adult group had 10 level I, 2 level II, 9 level III, and 4 level IV. The degree of physical impairment determined by the Modified Mallet Classification showed persistent impairment in both groups. The average DASH scores were higher than the normal range for the adolescent and young adult groups. Forty-five percent of the adolescents and 68% of the young adults were either overweight or obese. All received high school diplomas with 20 of the young adults pursuing higher education.

Results:

Scores on measures of psychiatric symptomatology and self-concept showed that both groups fell within the normal range. QOL for both groups was also within the normal range. All participants scored average to above average on the cognitive assessment. All measurements were patient reported.

Conclusions:

Patients with NBPP can adapt and participate in most activities. This patient sample demonstrated persistent functional limitations and a higher rate of comorbid obesity. However, these patients function psychologically and cognitively within the normal range and many have pursued higher education.

Level of Evidence:

Level IV.

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