In the pre-operative screening of infants with obstetric brachial palsy (OBP), the results of routine electromyography are often overly optimistic when compared to the peri-operative findings. This prompted us to include investigation of the sensory innervation of these infants using the N20 (the first cortical response to a peripheral stimulation) of the somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP). Three to seven months after birth, SSEP were recorded at the skull after stimulation of the thumb and middle finger in infants with obstetric rupture of the upper trunk or avulsion of roots C5, C6, or C7, and in whom no clinical improvement of motor function was observed in the biceps brachii and deltoid muscles. In most infants, a normal N20 could be evoked, indicating the existence of peripheral sensory pathways. From the thumb, these sensory pathways would necessarily bypass the upper trunk and dorsal roots of spinal nerves C5 and C6, and from the middle finger bypass the middle trunk and dorsal root C7, before extending into the dorsal column and projecting toward the thalamus and cerebral cortex. These data suggest that in infancy the segmental sensory innervation of the hand is more diverse than is described in most textbooks.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.