A Thematic Analysis of Online Discussion Boards for Brachial Plexus Injury

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26 Scopus citations


Purpose Patients with brachial plexus injury (BPI) and their family members contribute to Internet discussion groups dedicated to BPI. We hypothesized that a thematic analysis of posts from BPI Internet discussion groups would reveal common themes related to the BPI patient experience, providing topics for patient education and counseling. Methods Internet discussion boards were identified using the search term “brachial plexus injury support group” in Google, Bing, and Yahoo! search engines. Two discussion boards had substantially more posts than other Web sites and were chosen for analyses. Posts from January 1, 2015, through January 1, 2016, were examined. Using an iterative and established process, 2 investigators (M.T.M. and C.J.D) independently analyzed each post using thematic analysis in 3 steps (open coding, axial coding, and selective coding) to determine common themes. In this process, each post was reviewed 3 times. Results A total of 328 posts from the 2 leading discussion boards were analyzed. Investigators reached a consensus on themes for all posts. One central theme focused on emotional aspects of BPI. Four other central themes regarding information support were identified: BPI disease, BPI treatment, recovery after BPI treatment, and process of seeking care for BPI. Conclusions Examination of posts on Internet support groups for BPI revealed recurring concerns, questions, and opinions of patients and their family members. The most common themes related to disease information, treatment, recovery, and the emotional element of BPI. Clinical relevance These findings provide a helpful starting point in refining topics for patient education and support that are targeted on patients’ interests and concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-818
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Brachial plexus injury
  • online discussion groups
  • online support group
  • qualitative
  • thematic analysis


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