A standardized ultrasound approach in neuralgic amyotrophy

Natalie E. Cignetti, Rebecca S. Cox, Vanessa Baute, Marissa B. McGhee, Nens van Alfen, Jeffrey A. Strakowski, Andrea J. Boon, John W. Norbury, Michael S. Cartwright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Neuralgic amyotrophy (NA), also referred to as idiopathic brachial plexitis and Parsonage-Turner syndrome, is a peripheral nerve disorder characterized by acute severe shoulder pain followed by progressive upper limb weakness and muscle atrophy. While NA is incompletely understood and often difficult to diagnose, early recognition may prevent unnecessary tests and interventions and, in some situations, allow for prompt treatment, which can potentially minimize adverse long-term sequalae. High-resolution ultrasound (HRUS) has become a valuable tool in the diagnosis and evaluation of NA. Pathologic HRUS findings can be grouped into four categories: nerve swelling, swelling with incomplete constriction, swelling with complete constriction, and fascicular entwinement, which may represent a continuum of pathologic processes. Certain ultrasound findings may help predict the likelihood of spontaneous recovery with conservative management versus the need for surgical intervention. We recommend relying heavily on history and physical examination to determine which nerves are clinically affected and should therefore be assessed by HRUS. The nerves most frequently affected by NA are the suprascapular, long thoracic, median and anterior interosseous nerve (AIN) branch, radial and posterior interosseous nerve (PIN) branch, axillary, spinal accessory, and musculocutaneous. When distal upper limb nerves are affected (AIN, PIN, superficial radial nerve), the lesion is almost always located in their respective fascicles within the parent nerve, proximal to its branching point. The purpose of this review is to describe a reproducible, standardized, ultrasonographic approach for evaluating suspected NA, and to share reliable techniques and clinical considerations when imaging commonly affected nerves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages9
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • brachial plexus
  • hourglass constriction
  • neuromuscular
  • parsonage-turner syndrome
  • ultrasound imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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