Clinical impact of magnetic resonance neurography in patients with brachial plexus neuropathies

Br J Radiol. 2016 Nov;89(1067):20160503. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20160503. Epub 2016 Sep 19.


Objective: To study the impact of brachial plexus MR neurography (MRN) in the diagnostic thinking and therapeutic management of patients with suspected plexopathy.

Methods: MRN examinations of adult brachial plexuses over a period of 18 months were reviewed. Relevant data collection included-patient demographics, clinical history, pre-imaging diagnostic impression, pre-imaging treatment plan, post-imaging diagnosis, post-imaging treatment plan, surgical notes and electrodiagnostic (ED) results. Impact of imaging on the pre-imaging clinical diagnosis and therapeutic management were classified as no change, mild change or substantial change.

Results: Final sample included 121 studies. The common aetiologies included inflammatory in 31 (25.6%) of 121 patients, trauma in 29 (23.9%) of 121 patients and neoplastic in 26 (21.5%) of 121 patients. ED tests were performed in 47 (38.8%) of 121 patients and these showed concordance with MRN findings in 31 (66.0%) of 47 patients. Following MRN, there was change in the pre-imaging clinical impression for 91 (75.2%) of 121 subjects, with a mild change in diagnosis in 57 (47.1%) of 121 patients and a substantial change in 34 (28.0%) of 121 patients. 19 (15.7%) of 121 patients proceeded to therapies that would not have been performed in the same manner without the information obtained from MRN.

Conclusion: MRN of the brachial plexus significantly impacts clinical decision-making and should be routinely performed in suspected brachial plexopathy. Advances in knowledge: MRN significantly impacts the diagnostic thinking and therapeutic management of patients with suspected brachial plexopathy. MRN not only provides concordant information to ED tests in majority of cases, but also supplements with additional diagnostic data in patients who are ED negative.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / etiology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuropathies / therapy
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged