Brachial Plexus Palsy Associated With Cesarean Section: An in Utero Injury?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Nov;177(5):1162-4. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(97)70034-6.


Objective: Brachial plexus injury may be unrelated to manipulations performed at the time of delivery, occurring in the absence of shoulder dystocia and in the posterior arm of infants with anterior shoulder dystocia. To further support the hypothesis that some of these nerve injuries appear to be of intrauterine origin, we present a series of brachial plexus palsies associated with atraumatic cesarean delivery among fetuses presenting in the vertex position.

Study design: We performed a computerized search of all deliveries from 1991 to 1995 for the discharge diagnoses of brachial plexus injury and cesarean section. Inclusion criteria included cephalic presentation at the time of delivery and the absence of traumatic delivery.

Results: We noted six cases of Erb's palsy, with four palsies in the anterior shoulder and two in the posterior arm. Among those five patients undergoing cesarean section because of labor abnormalities, two had uterine cavity abnormalities whereas one had a prolonged second stage of labor. One brachial plexus palsy occurred in the absence of active labor. All nerve injuries were persistent at age 1 year.

Conclusions: Brachial plexus palsy can be associated with cesarean delivery. Such palsies appear to be of intrauterine origin and are more likely to persist.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brachial Plexus / injuries*
  • Cesarean Section*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Paralysis / etiology*
  • Pregnancy