Parsonage-Turner Syndrome and Hereditary Brachial Plexus Neuropathy

Mayo Clin Proc. 2024 Jan;99(1):124-140. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2023.06.011.


Parsonage-Turner syndrome and hereditary brachial plexus neuropathy (HBPN) present with indistinguishable attacks of rapid-onset severe shoulder and arm pain, disabling weakness, and early muscle atrophy. Their combined incidence ranges from 3 to 100 in 100,000 persons per year. Dominant mutations of SEPT9 are the only known mutations responsible for HBPN. Parsonage and Turner termed the disorder "brachial neuralgic amyotrophy," highlighting neuropathic pain and muscle atrophy. Modern electrodiagnostic and imaging testing assists the diagnosis in distinction from mimicking disorders. Shoulder and upper limb nerves outside the brachial plexus are commonly affected including the phrenic nerve where diaphragm ultrasound improves diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging can show multifocal T2 nerve and muscle hyperintensities with nerve hourglass swellings and constrictions identifiable also by ultrasound. An inflammatory immune component is suggested by nerve biopsies and associated infectious, immunization, trauma, surgery, and childbirth triggers. High-dose pulsed steroids assist initial pain control; however, weakness and subsequent pain are not clearly responsive to steroids and instead benefit from time, physical therapy, and non-narcotic pain medications. Recurrent attacks in HBPN are common and prophylactic steroids or intravenous immunoglobulin may reduce surgical- or childbirth-induced attacks. Rehabilitation focusing on restoring functional scapular mechanics, energy conservation, contracture prevention, and pain management are critical. Lifetime residual pain and weakness are rare with most making dramatic functional recovery. Tendon transfers can be used when recovery does not occur after 18 months. Early neurolysis and nerve grafts are controversial. This review provides an update including new diagnostic tools, new associations, and new interventions crossing multiple medical disciplines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Plexus Neuritis* / diagnosis
  • Brachial Plexus Neuritis* / pathology
  • Brachial Plexus Neuritis* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Muscular Atrophy
  • Pain
  • Steroids


  • 4-hydroxybutyl-(2-propenyl)nitrosamine
  • Steroids