RATIONALE: Electroacupuncture is commonly used for treating nerve injury. However, studies published in recent years have not described an appropriate method for accurately identifying the location and depth of injured nerves beneath the acupoints. PATIENT CONCERNS: A 26-year-old male patient had left shoulder pain and weakness after tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccination and was diagnosed with idiopathic brachial neuritis 24 months before this study. The patient had undergone prednisone and ibuprofen treatment in another hospital, but the therapeutic effect was poor and limited. DIAGNOSES: The nerve conduction studies showed decreased amplitude over the left supraspinatus and deltoid muscles. Electromyography showed increased giant waves and polyphasic waves with reduced recruitments in the left deltoid muscle and increased giant waves with reduced recruitment in the left supraspinatus muscle. The condition was diagnosed with idiopathic brachial neuritis. INTERVENTIONS: Ultrasound was used to identify the location and depth of axillary and suprascapular nerves, and direct electroacupuncture was conducted at the quadrangular space and suprascapular notch to stimulate the nerves. Other needles were placed according to deltoid and supraspinatus muscles origins and insertions. The procedure was conducted once a week, and rehabilitation activities were conducted daily. OUTCOMES: The patient experienced significant improvements of left shoulder pain and muscle weakness after ultrasound-guided electroacupuncture treatment. The total shoulder pain and disability index score declined from 49.23% to 11.54%. The scores of both pain and disability domains improved and maintained stable declining after the intervention. The disability of the arm, shoulder; and hand scores declined from 60 to 23.3. According to amplitude data from nerve conduction studies, the injured axillary nerve showed remarkable improvement in the third month. Muscle strength improved to the normal state. The patient was generally satisfied with the ultrasound-guided electroacupuncture treatment. LESSON: Ultrasound-guided electroacupuncture was based on anatomical correlations between nerves and muscles and on electrical stimulation theories. The results suggest that this intervention might be an alternative therapy for idiopathic brachial neuritis. Furthermore, in this study, it had minimal adverse effects. This therapy is demonstrated to be effective in future controlled studies.
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