Non-traumatic brachial plexopathies, clinical, radiological and neurophysiological findings from a tertiary centre

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2007 Oct;109(8):661-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2007.05.010. Epub 2007 Jul 10.


Objective: To establish the clinical characteristics, aetiology, neuro-physiological characteristics, imaging findings and other investigations in a cohort of patients with non-traumatic brachial plexopathy (BP).

Methods: A 3-year retrospective study of patients with non-traumatic BP identified by electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS). Clinical information was retrieved from patients' medical charts.

Results: Twenty-five patients were identified. Causes of BP included neuralgic amyotrophy (NA) (48%), neoplastic (16%), radiation (8%), post infectious (12%), obstetric (4%), rucksack injury (4%), thoracic outlet syndrome (4%) and iatrogenic (4%). Patients with NA presented acutely in 50%. The onset was subacute in all others. Outcome was better for patients with NA. All patients with neoplastic disease had a previous history of cancer. MRI was abnormal in 3/16 patients (18.8%). PET scanning diagnosed metastatic plexopathy in two cases.

Conclusions: NA was the most common cause of BP in our cohort and was associated with a more favourable outcome. The authors note potentially discriminating clinical characteristics in our population that aid in the assessment of patients with brachial plexopathies. We advise NCS and EMG be performed in all patients with suspected plexopathy. Imaging studies are useful in selected patients.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / diagnostic imaging
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / etiology*
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Radiography
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ulnar Nerve / physiopathology