Diagnostic sonography (ultrasonography) is an ultrasound-based diagnostic imaging technique used for visualizing internal body structures including tendons, muscles, joints, vessels and internal organs for possible pathology or lesions.
Although the skull limits applicability of sonography, bedside intracranial endosonography might be an alternative to computed tomography scans to detect adverse events in sedated patients. However, the usefulness of intracranial endosonography for potential clinical application has not been evaluated.
Ultrasonography has previously been reported for use in the evaluation of compressive or traumatic peripheral nerve pathology and for its utility in preoperative mapping. However, these studies were not performed in infants, and they were not focused on the brachial plexus. The authors report a case in which ultrasonography was used to improve operative management of neonatal brachial plexus palsy (NBPP). An infant boy was born at term, complicated by right-sided shoulder dystocia. Initial clinical evaluation revealed proximal arm weakness consistent with an upper trunk injury. Unlike MRI or CT myelography that focus on proximal nerve roots, ultrasonography of the brachial plexus in the supraclavicular fossa was able to demonstrate a small neuroma involving the upper trunk (C-5 and C-6) and no asymmetry in movement of the diaphragm or in the appearance of the rhomboid muscle when compared with the unaffected side. However, the supra- and infraspinatus muscles were significantly asymmetrical and atrophied on the affected side. Importantly, ultrasound examination of the shoulder revealed posterior glenohumeral laxity. Instead of pursuing the primary nerve reconstruction first, timely treatment of the shoulder subluxation prevented formation of joint dysplasia and formation of a false glenoid, which is a common sequela of this condition. Because the muscles innervated by proximal branches of the cervical nerve roots/trunks were radiographically normal, subsequent nerve transfers were performed and good functional results were achieved. The authors believe this to be the first report describing the utility of ultrasonography in the surgical treatment planning in a case of NBPP. Noninvasive imaging, in addition to thorough history and physical examination, reduces the intraoperative time required to determine the extent and severity of nerve injury by allowing improved preoperative planning of the surgical strategy. Inclusion of ultrasonography as a preoperative modality may yield improved outcomes for children with NBPP 1).