Prevalence and etiology of elbow flexion contractures in brachial plexus birth injury: A scoping review Academic Article uri icon

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  • PURPOSE: To synthesize the evidence on the prevalence and etiology of elbow flexion contractures secondary to brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI). METHODS: Using Arksey and O'Malley's scoping review framework, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases were searched, followed by a comprehensive grey literature search. Articles and abstracts of studies of all level of evidence on the prevalence, natural history, clinical presentation, etiology, and treatment of elbow flexion contractures in BPBI were included. RESULTS: Of the 884 records found, 130 full text articles were reviewed, and 57 records were included. The median prevalence of elbow flexion contracture in BPBI was 48%. The magnitude of the contractures was between 5 and 90 degrees. Contractures > 30 degrees were found in 21% to 36% of children. With recent clinical and lab studies, there is stronger evidence that the contractures are largely due to the effects of denervation causing failure in the growth of the affected flexor muscles, while muscle imbalance, splint positioning, and postural preferences play a smaller role. CONCLUSION: The etiology of elbow flexion contractures is multifaceted. The contribution of growth impairment in the affected muscles offers greater understanding as to why maintaining passive range of motion in these contractures can be difficult.


  • Ho, Emily S
  • Kim, Dorothy
  • Klar, Karen
  • Anthony, Alison
  • Davidge, Kristen
  • Borschel, Gregory H
  • Hopyan, Sevan
  • Clarke, Howard M
  • Wright, Virginia

publication date

  • April 10, 2019