Recurrent brachial plexus neuropathy

Brain. 1975 Sep;98(3):381-98. doi: 10.1093/brain/98.3.381.


The clinical, electrophysiological and pathological changes in 3 patients with recurrent attacks of non-traumatic brachial plexus neuropathy have been described. Two had recurrent attacks and a dominant family history of similar attacks, together with evidence of lesser degrees of nerve involvement outside the brachial plexus. In one patient the attacks were moderately painful, while in the other there was little or no pain. Only one showed undue slowing of motor nerve conduction during ischaemia, but in both cases the sural nerves had the changes of tomaculous neuropathy, with many sausage-shaped swellings of the myelin sheaths, and extensive segmental demyelination and remyelination. The third patient had two attacks of acute brachial plexus neuropathy which were both extremely painful. The clinical features were compatible with a diagnosis of neuralgic amuotrophy. In the second attack, there was vagus nerve involvement and the sural nerve showed evidence of healed extensive segmental demyelination. The various syndromes presenting with acute non-traumatic brachial plexus neuropathy are reviewed, and a tentative nonsological classification advanced. Most patients fall into the category of acute, painful paralysis with amyotrophy, with no family history and no evidence of lesions outside the brachial plexus. It is suggested that the term "neuralgic amyotrophy" be restricted to this group. Patients with features outside this clinical picture probably suffer from other disease entities presenting with brachial plexus neuropathy. The familial cases constitute one or more aetioliogical subgroups, differing from neuralgic amyotrophy in the frequency of recurrences, the relative freedom from pain in the attacks, the frequency of nerve lesions outside the brachial plexus, and of hypotelorism. Individual attacks of acute brachial plexus neuropathy, however, may be identical in patients with the different diseases, and further pathological and biochemical studies are awaited to aid in nosology.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Brachial Plexus* / pathology
  • Brachial Plexus* / physiopathology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Reaction Time
  • Recurrence
  • Sural Nerve / pathology