Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sprengel Deformity Outcome


Sprengel deformity is the presence of a high- riding shoulder blade (scapula).  I have previously blogged about it HERE (although it has been awhile).  Sprengel deformity is uncommon although the exact incidence is unclear.  It can be associated with a number of conditions including Klippel Feil (cervical spine vertebrae fusions), scoliosis, and other less common conditions (although all of these are very rare).  We believe it occurs during early development.  All of us start with the shoulder blades resting high in the neck and then, during fetal development, the shoulder blades migrate/ travel down to their final position in the upper back.  There may be abnormal tissue or even bony connection between the shoulder blade and the spine (it is unclear if this is cause or effect). 


Patients with a Sprengel deformity present with a bulge in the posterior neck- the shoulder blade.  They typically have limited shoulder motion including the ability to bring the arm from their side and in front of them.  Specifically, both motions may be limited to prevent the hand and arm from reaching high above the patient.  There is rarely pain.  The motion limitation is determined by the severity of the Sprengel deformity. 




Sprengel Deformity on the patient's right side.  
Sprengel Deformity on the patient's right side. 

Treatment
While therapy can be utilized to work on motion in Sprengel deformity, most patients with motion limitations and the notable neck bulge are treated with surgery.  The goal of surgery is to bring the shoulder blade down from the neck, back into its position in the upper back.  Because the shoulder blade is always smaller than the ‘normal’ one, the sides are never exactly symmetrical.  The surgery we utilize is the Modified Woodward procedure although there are several similar surgeries which can be effective.  We prefer a younger age for surgery but will typically treat patients aged 3-8 years or so.  The reason we prefer operating on younger children is because we feel that motion will improve more compared to treatment in older kids.

Finally, while the goal of surgery is to improve motion, a secondary benefit (an important one) is the improvement in appearance.  Sprengel deformity does cause a real ‘bulge’ in the neck which is quite noticeable.  Surgery definitely improves this although, as noted above, the shoulder blades typically appear asymmetrical due to the fact the affected one is smaller than the ‘normal’ one (although this is only visible without a shirt).  One important consideration in surgery is for the surgeon to avoid the temptation to bring the shoulder blades ‘level’.  This can increase the risk of a nerve stretch injury.

The patient below is after surgery for Sprengel deformity and the size difference in her shoulder blades is clear.   However, her motion is much improved, as is the appearance of her neck.  Unfortunately, the improvement in her neck bulge is hidden by her hair.


Patient with Sprengel Deformity on her right, after surgery



Patient with Sprengel Deformity on her right, after surgery



Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

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