Brachial Plexus Injuries

Also known as: peripheral neuropathy, peripheral nerve injuries

What are brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries?

The peripheral nerves are the vast network of nerves that join the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin and internal organs.
The brachial plexus is a network of peripheral nerves that originate in the neck region and branch off to various muscles of the arm to control movement and sensation in the shoulders, arm, forearm and hand. Injuries to the brachial plexus are most commonly seen in newborns during the process of child-birth. Other causes may include motor vehicle accidents or tumors that may affect the nerves.

What causes brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries? 
The primary cause of brachial plexus nerve injury in infants is thought to occur when there is birth difficulty delivering the shoulder of the baby. In older children, brachial plexus and / or other peripheral nerves may be injured during vehicular, bike, motorcycle or all terrain vehicle accidents, sports injuries or other injuries that pull or stretch the nerves. In some instances, other disorders can cause nerve problems without any obvious accident or injury.

What are the symptoms of brachial plexus or peripheral nerve injuries? 
In the infant, injuries to the brachial plexus may cause weakness or paralysis of the affected arm. Older children with brachial or other peripheral nerve injury may complain of numbness or tingling while severe injuries can lead to weakness or even complete loss of sensation and paralysis of the affected part of the body.

What are brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injury care options?
Physical therapy or occupational therapy can be used to assist with healing. Splinting or immobilizing the nerve in other ways may also be required while it heals. For more severe injuries, surgical procedures to reconstruct the nerve might be necessary.

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Reviewed by: Sanjiv Bhatia, MD

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 1:57:01 PM

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