Although the commonest type of axillary nerve palsy occurs following shoulder dislocation on humeral fracture, another form is seen after blunt trauma to the shoulder region without associated fracture or dislocation. The former usually goes on to a full recovery whereas a failure to recover is common in the latter group. In our review of 13 patients with palsy after blunt shoulder trauma, seven patients showed minimal or no recovery of deltoid muscle function and six patients went on to complete or near complete recovery. Serial electromyographic examinations usually revealed the lesion to be in continuity although eventual clinical recovery was not satisfactory in a number of these patients. The mechanism of the palsy appeared to involve a stretch injury and this was confirmed at operation in two patients. Glenohumeral fixation was a troublesome complication which limited recovery of function in four patients. Further details of the type of trauma, clinical and electromyographic examination, assessment and management are discussed.
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