Outcomes after occupational therapy intervention for traumatic brachial plexus injury: A prospective longitudinal cohort study

Tanya Cole, Rebecca Nicks, Scott Ferris, Eldho Paul, Lisa O'Brien, Elizabeth Pritchard

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Study Design: Prospective longitudinal cohort study. Introduction: Traumatic brachial plexus injuries (BPIs) can be devastating and negatively impact daily function and quality of life. Occupational therapists play an important role in rehabilitation; however, studies identifying outcomes are lacking. Purpose: This study aims to describe outcomes including motor recovery, upper limb function, participation, pain, and quality of life for people receiving occupational therapy intervention. Methods: A convenience sample of English-speaking adults (n = 30) with a traumatic BPI, attending the clinic between December 1, 2014, to November 30, 2016, participated. Participants received occupational therapy focusing on sensorimotor retraining and activity-based rehabilitation. Data on active range of motion (goniometry), strength (Medical Research Council (MRC)), upper-limb function (UEFI15, QuickDASH), participation (PSFS), pain (Brief Pain Inventory), and quality of life (EQ-5D-3L) were collected at baseline, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Results: Elbow flexion strength showed significant improvement at all time-points, average increase 2.17 (MRC) (95% confidence interval: 1.29-3.04; P < .001) and mean final MRC grading 3.86 (standard error: 0.44). Significant improvements at 12 months were seen in: shoulder abduction strength and range, flexion strength and range, external rotation range; elbow extension strength and flexion range; thumb flexion and extension strength. Upper limb function (QuickDASH) showed significant improvement (mean change = 18.85; 95% confidence interval: 4.12-33.59; P = .02). Forearm protonation range and finger flexion strength were significantly worse. Remaining outcomes did not show significant improvement. Conclusions: Occupational therapy with surgical intervention can improve strength, range, and upper limb function with people following traumatic BPI. Further investigations into impact on participation, pain, and quality of life are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-539
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hand Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Brachial plexus neuropathies
  • Occupational therapy
  • Recovery of function
  • Rehabilitation
  • Upper extremity

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