Study links plagiocephaly among infants to neonatal brachial plexus palsy

SAN ANTONIO — Infants with neonatal brachial plexus palsy may have a higher likelihood of developing plagiocephaly, according to results of a study presented at American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association National Assembly, here.

Megan Tang, MS, an orthotic resident at the University of Michigan’s Brachial Plexus Program, presented the results of a study as part of the Thranhardt Lectures Series. Tang and colleagues studied 28 infants with neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP) to evaluate the prevalence of plagiocephaly; to examine the association of factors including demographics and arm functions to plagiocephaly; and to determine the percentage of spontaneous recovery from plagiocephaly and its association with arm function.

Megan Tang

Megan Tang


The researchers collected demographic data on the infants and their mothers and determined NBPP status, which was graded on a severity scale of one through four. They also took impressions of the babies’ heads to collect plagiocephaly data.

Tang said 64% of the infants studied had plagiocephaly. Of those patients, 21% of cases spontaneously resolved.

“We did find that there was a high prevalence of plagiocephaly among the infants with neonatal brachial plexus palsy,” Tang said. “There seems to have been a trend of an improvement in active range of motion that was promulgated with the resolution of plagiocephaly.”

Tang said a previous paper from the Brachial Plexus Program showed a high prevalence of torticollis among NBPP patients, so physicians and physical therapists also should look for signs of this condition.

Tang and colleagues said “tummy time,” or placing the infant on his or her stomach while awake, should be encouraged.

“This could reduce the chance of cranial asymmetry,” Tang said. – by Amanda Alexander

Reference: Tang M. High prevalence of cranial asymmetry may exist in infants with neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP). Presented at: American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association National Assembly; Oct. 7-10, 2015; San Antonio.

Disclosure: Tang reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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