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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 411--413

Dropped head syndrome in brachial plexus injury: A technical note

Ashish Kumar1, Dacosta Leodante2,  
1 Department of Neurosurgery, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, Telangana, India; Division of Neurosurgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2 Division of Neurosurgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ashish Kumar
Department of Neurosurgery, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad - 500082, Telangana

How to cite this article:
Kumar A, Leodante D. Dropped head syndrome in brachial plexus injury: A technical note.Neurol India 2017;65:411-413

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Kumar A, Leodante D. Dropped head syndrome in brachial plexus injury: A technical note. Neurol India [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 28 ];65:411-413
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Dropped head syndrome (DHS) is defined as the forward movement of head secondary to the weakness of neck extensor muscles. It has been associated with multiple pathologies including neuromuscular disorders,[1] syringomyelia,[2] chemoradiation in cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma,[3] cervical spondylotic myelopathy,[4] and cervical spine trauma.[5] We encountered a patient with DHS after brachial plexus injury (BPI), which has been never reported in literature till date. A 27-year-old male patient was transferred to our hospital after a snowmobile accident. Neurological examination showed left upper limb paralysis suggestive of BPI. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the cervical spine revealed no cord injury [Figure 1]. He was managed conservatively with a cervical collar and was discharged subsequently. At a 6-month follow up, cervical spine X-rays showed an initial mild kyphosis centered at the C5-6 level, and 4 months later, he presented with rapid progression of severe neck deformity. Computed tomography (CT) scan showed severe kyphotic deformity of the cervical spine, mainly at the C5-6 level with unilateral facet dislocation on the left side [Figure 2]. Anterior fusion of the C5-6 bodies was also evident (arrow). MRI showed gross cervical kyphosis along with pseudomeningocele on the left side. The bulk of paraspinal muscles was also grossly reduced [Figure 3]. He underwent anterior discectomy (C4-5 and C5-6) at two levels followed by deformity correction and posterior fusion from C3-T1. Surgery was uneventful and his deformity improved to a significant extent after surgery [Figure 4]. He was doing well at follow-up visit at 6 months, and there is no evidence of recurrent deformity.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}{Figure 3}{Figure 4}

DHS, also known as chin on chest deformity, is caused by weakness of the neck extensor muscles, leading to progressive kyphosis of the cervical spine and forward bending of the neck. Apart from the causes already mentioned, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease have also been linked with DHS.[6]

Cervical spinal trauma, more specifically central cord syndrome, has been reported as a cause for DHS. The explanation for this association is based on the theory that proximal neck musculature is supplied by nerve fascicles placed centrally in the spinal cord.[7],[8] An idiopathic form is also often described, termed as “isolated neck extensor myopathy.”[9] DHS can be symptomatic due to the deformity only or present with signs of cervical myelopathy.[10] With gradual weakening of the neck muscles, the posterior tension-band is disrupted, which can lead to widening and forward movement of the facets. A circumferential approach is the recommended surgical treatment in most reports,[5] although a long segment posterior fusion and deformity correction might be a possible treatment if performed before anterior bony fusion.[11]

BPI has never been reported as a cause for DHS. A possible anatomical basis for this association would be based upon the myotomal pattern in the neck i.e. the paraspinal musculature is supplied by the dorsal rami of cervical nerves from C3 downwards.[12] In the case reported here, multiple root avulsions were present with damage very close to the nerve root entry zones. It is, therefore, reasonable to speculate that the dorsal branches coming off from these roots were damaged to different degrees, leading to denervation of the paraspinal musculature of the neck and progressive weakness after the root avulsion. The key point and importance of this report is to ensure that BPI patients are not lost to follow-up as there may be an associated delayed complication (apart from the already existing nonfunctional arm) resulting from it.

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