BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

Neonatal bulbar weakness (BW) has various etiologies and a broad prognostic range. We aimed to report outcomes in a large series of children with neonatal BW and explore the association of orofacial electrodiagnostic data with outcome.

METHODS:

We retrospectively reviewed the files of children who presented with facial, lingual, laryngeal, or pharyngeal weakness at birth and who underwent electrodiagnostic studies combining conventional needle electromyography (EMG) of orofacial muscles, blink responses, and EMG during bottle-feeding. Outcome measures included the need for prolonged respiratory assistance and enteral feeding, as well as sensorimotor and cognitive impairments.

RESULTS:

Of 175 patients, 73% had developmental disorders, 25% suffered from acquired brain damage, and 2% had no apparent underlying disorders. Motor or mental impairment was observed in 71%; death occurred in 16%. Outcomes were not significantly different when comparing developmental disorders versus acquired brain damage or neurogenic versus normal detection EMG. Abnormal blink responses were associated with higher frequencies of respiratory assistance (P = .03), gastrostomy (P = .025), and death (P = .009); moderate or severe oropharyngeal incoordinations were associated with higher frequencies of respiratory assistance (P = .006), prolonged enteral feeding (P < .0001), and gastrostomy (P = .0002).

CONCLUSIONS:

Orofacial electrodiagnostic studies provide supplementary information to help the pediatrician anticipate the management and prognosis of young infants with BW.

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