The shifting demographics of birth-related brachial plexus injury: The impact of socio-economic status and ethnic groups

Published:September 09, 2020DOI:



      Many of the risk factors for birth-related brachial plexus injury (BRBPI), such as maternal gestational diabetes and macrosomia, are known to vary between demographic groups. Socio-economic differences are known to influence access to healthcare, including elective caesarean section rates and access to consultant obstetricians, which could impact the rates of BRBPI. This study aims to explore whether BRBPI is affected by demographic factors.


      This retrospective study compares cohorts of BRBPI patients referred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in 2004, 2014 and 2017. N = 67 in 2004, N = 61 in 2014 and N = 71 in 2017.


      The risk of BRBPI for Black patients was 6 times higher than for White patients, and 2.7 times higher for Asian patients as compared to White patients (p < 0.001). There was an unequal distribution of BRBPI occurring in patients from lower socio-economic groups based on the index of multiple deprivation, with the highest level seen in those from the second lowest quintile. Neither of these risk factors have changed within the three years that they were examined.


      In this sample, the risk of BRBPI varies with ethnic groups; patients from non-White backgrounds are at a higher risk overall and are disproportionately represented in the BRBPI cohort as compared to White groups. Similarly, there seems to be a trend towards greater risk for those from lower socio-economic groups. These changes are consistent each year, suggesting that these inconsistencies are yet to be addressed. Further studies are warranted to explore why these demographic factors are significantly affecting health outcomes.


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