What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?

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The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand.

A brachial plexus injury is caused by damage to those nerves. The severity of the injury is determined by the type of damage.

Symptoms of a Brachial Plexus Injury

  • A limp or paralyzed arm
  • Lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist
  • Lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand

Cause of Brachial Plexus Injury in Children

These injuries occur as a result of shoulder trauma, tumors, or inflammation. There is a rare syndrome called Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, or brachial plexitis, which causes inflammation of the brachial plexus without any obvious shoulder injury.

This syndrome can begin with severe shoulder or arm pain followed by weakness and numbness. In infants, brachial plexus injuries may happen during birth if the baby’s shoulder is stretched during passage in the birth canal.

Treatment for Brachial Plexus Injuries

Many brachial plexus injuries heal without specific treatment. Physical and occupational therapy may be useful to help regain strength and use of the arm and hand. Medication may be needed to reduce pain and allow more use of the arm.

With severe traumatic injuries, surgery is sometimes necessary.

Prognosis for Brachial Plexus Injuries

The prognosis depends upon the severity of the injury. Those with stretch injuries have the best chance to regain normal usage of the arm and hand.

Where can I get more information?

United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc.

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
4200 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 202
Lanham, MD 20706-4829
301-459-5900/301-459-5984 (TTY)
E-mail naricinfo@heitechservices.com