Visual perceptual abilities in obstetric brachial plexus palsy : an investigation of the incidence and a comparative analysis.
Obstetric brachial plexus palsy, a traumatic birth palsy, results in the paralysis of the upper limb/s. The birth injury is treated at the Brachial Plexus Clinic at King Edward VIII th Hospital, where the Candidate forms part of the Rehabilitation Team. In keeping with worldwide trends, the focus of treatment was on rehabilitation of the upper limb/s. During the course of treatment of these patients, it was observed that the performance of these children varied from excellent to poor. This observation, has not been recorded previously, hence a Research study was initiated to invesitigate this aspect of performance. The study comprised thirty children, between the ages of four and seventeen, whose paralysis was assessed in the conventional pattern. In addition, the visual perceptual abilities of these children were assessed in a variety of batteries, catering for the wide age range. These were: Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (1989), Motor Free Perception Test (1972), Developmental Test of Visual Perception (2nd edition), Test of Visual Perceptual Skills - Upper and Lower levels ( Gardner), Jordan's Left-Right Reversal Test (1974), Clinical (Ayres) and General Observations. Although traditionally viewed as a physical disorder, the results of the study indicate that children with obstetric brachial plexus injury present with a significant incidence of below average performance, against the normal population, on most of the assessment batteries. No significant relationship could be established between the severity of the lesion and visual perceptual abilities, owing to the disproportionate numbers of children amongst the different lesions. Further research is required to support and consolidate the findings of this study. It is also recommended that Occupational therapists screen for visual perceptual deficits in such injuries, thus facilitating holistic patient management.