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Non‐Sedated Rapid Volumetric Proton Density MRI Predicts Neonatal Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy Functional Outcome

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Background and purpose

The current prognostic biomarker of functional outcome in brachial plexus birth palsy is serial clinical examination throughout the first 6 months of age. This can delay surgical treatment and prolong parental anxiety in neonates who will recover spontaneously. A potentially superior biomarker is a volumetric proton density MRI performed at clinical presentation and within the first 12 weeks of life, providing a high spatial and contrast resolution examination in 4 minutes.


Nine neonates ranging in age from 4 to 9 weeks who presented with brachial plexus birth palsy were enrolled. All subjects underwent non-sedated 3 Tesla MRI with Cube Proton Density MRI sequence at the same time as their initial clinical visit. Serial clinical examinations were conducted at routine 4 week intervals and the functional performance scores were recorded. MRI findings were divided into pre-ganglionic and post-ganglionic injuries and a radiological scoring system (Shriners Radiological Score) was developed for this study.


Proton Density MRI was able to differentiate between pre-ganglionic and post-ganglionic injuries. Radiological scores (Shriners Radiological Score) correlated better with functional performance at 6 months of age (P = .022) than the initial clinical examinations (Active Movement Scale P = .213 and Toronto P = .320).


Rapid non-sedated volumetric Cube Proton Density MRI protocol performed at initial clinical presentation can accurately grade severity of brachial plexus birth palsy injury and predict functional performance at 6 months of age.

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