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Keywords:

  • Brachial plexus birth palsy;
  • Characteristics;
  • Delivery;
  • Disability;
  • Outcome

Abstract

Aim:  To relate pregnancy characteristics to extent and reversibility of brachial plexus birth palsy (BPBP) in neonates.

Methods:  Retrospective case–control study: newborns with a registered diagnosis of BPBP (n = 168) 1990–2005 were compared to data from a randomly selected control group (n = 1000). Characteristics were related to the level of injury, reversibility and outcome.

Results:  Among 51 841 newborns, 168 cases with BPBP were found (incidence 3.2/1000 newborns/year). Extent and reversibility of lesion did not differ with respect to characteristics of mothers, foetuses or deliveries. Children with C5–C6 and C5–C6–C7 injuries had complete recovery in 86% and 38%, respectively. Global injuries (C5-Th1) always had permanent disability. Accelerators (foetal weight gain >35 g/day after 32 weeks of gestation) and foetuses with estimated weight deviation ≥ +22% at 32 weeks were at seven- and ninefold increased risk of BPBP. Parous women were at doubled risk as compared to nulliparous women.

Conclusion:  Maternal and foetal characteristics influence risk of BPBP, but not the extent of injury or reversibility of injury. Because of the high risk of permanent disability and modest risk of low Apgar or pH among newborns with BPBP, the recommendation of prompt delivery may need to be re-evaluated.