Journal of Neurology

, Volume 237, Issue 4, pp 247–250 | Cite as

Natural history of radiation-induced brachial plexopathy compared with surgically treated patients

  • H. E. Killer
  • K. Hess
Original Investigations


Twelve patients who developed radiation-induced brachial plexopathy (RIBP) after receiving radiation therapy for breast carcinoma (7 patients) or Hodgkin's lymphoma (5 patients) were followed for 12 or more years, with a mean follow-up time of 20 years. Tingling and numbness of the fingers as well as weakness of the hand or arm were the most prominent presenting symptoms of RIBP. Whereas pain in most patients evolved only later in their course, it became a predominant feature in only 2. In 8 of the 12 patients, the plexopathy was surgically treated, either by neurolysis only or by neurolysis plus omental grafting in order to stop progression or paresis and/or pain. In 8 patients, including 6 of the operated group, there was slow and steady progression of RIBP over time, with the final outcome being almost complete paralysis of the arm (2 patients) or severe sensorimotor paresis rendering the hand useless (6 patients). In only 4 patients, including 2 of the non-operated group, was there absence of progression and stabilization of the paresis with only slight functional loss of the affected arm in 3 patients and severe palsy in 1. None of the 12 patients had any clear long-lasting improvement of their sensorimotor impairment. It is concluded from this study that RIBP, irrespective of surgery (neurolysis and/or omentum transplant), left two-thirds of the patients with severe or total paresis of the arm. However, the almost complete relief of severe pain (6 of 8 patients), both immediately and in follow-up patients treated with neurolysis and/or omental transplant, indicates that surgical treatment has a beneficial effect on pain relief.

Key words

Irradiation Plexopathy Brachial Plexus Sensorimotor paresis Neurolysis Long term follow-up 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. E. Killer
    • 1
  • K. Hess
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyKantonspital AarauAarauSwitzerland

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