The incidence of obstetric brachial plexus injury (OBPI) was investigated and the natural course of this disorder and the frequency of shoulder contracture described. Between 1988 and 1997 13,366 children with a gestational age of 30 weeks or more, were born at the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam. Of these, 62 had an OBPI (4.6 per 1000). Complete neurological recovery occurred in 72.6% of cases. Half of them had a delayed recovery of more than three weeks (mean recovery time 6.2 +/- 3.1 months). Shoulder contracture occurred in at least one-third of the children with delayed recovery and in at least two-thirds of the children with incomplete recovery. The incidence of OBPI in our hospital was found to be higher and to have a less favourable natural course than is usually reported in the literature. Contracture of the shoulder joint is frequently found even in infants with complete neurological recover
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