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Cranial nerve palsies in Nigerian children

KI Eyong
EE Philip-Ephraim
G Inah
JM Ikobah
EE Ekanem
AA Asindi


Background: Cranial nerve palsies are common clinical problem routinely encountered in neurological practice; the dysfunction can occur at any point in the course of the nerve and may point to serious pathology. The aim of this study was to determine the pattern and underlying aetiology of cranial nerve palsies in Nigerian children.
Method: Children in the Children’s Emergency Unit and the Children’s Ward of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria, with neurological problems over a 12-month period (January through December 2012), were recruited into the study. Each child was admitted and evaluated by the Paediatric Neurology Unit. Those with cranial nerve palsies were selected for detailed analysis. The biodata, clinical features and relevant laboratory results were documented.
Results: Of the 285 with neurological problems 23 (8.1%) had cranial nerve palsies. Fifteen (65.2%) of the children had single cranial nerve palsies while eight (34.8%) had multiple cranial nerves involvement. Of the 43 nerves involved, the facial nerve was the commonest (38.3%) followed by the oculomotor (23.5%) and abducens (20.6%). Intracranial infections such as meningitis, viral encephalitis and brain abscess were incriminated in 60.8% of the patients and 70.6% of the nerves involved.
Conclusion: Cranial nerve palsies cause handicap and cosmetic problems. It is recommended that every child with cranial neuropathy should be evaluated for intracranial infections among other differentials. Prompt diagnosis, treatment and immunisation against related infections is paramount.