Infraclavicular brachial plexus injury following axillary regional block

Bryan E Tsao, Asa J Wilbourn
Muscle & Nerve 2004, 30 (1): 44-8
Infraclavicular brachial plexopathy is a potential complication of axillary regional block. We retrospectively reviewed 13 such injuries and found the median nerve most often affected, followed by combined median and ulnar neuropathies, and then by various combinations involving the median, ulnar, radial, and musculocutaneous nerves. All were axon-loss in type and most were severe in degree electrophysiologically. The clinical and electrodiagnostic features of these injuries are strikingly similar to those sustained after axillary arteriography, which has been associated with the medial brachial fascial compartment (MBFC) syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by the evolution of neurologic deficits and pain following hematoma formation within a compartment of the upper arm. Thus, we believe that this mechanism underlies most nerve injuries that result from axillary angiography or axillary regional block. This has important treatment implications, as timely surgical intervention may lead to improved outcome.

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