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Condition. Brachial Plexus Injury

By Editorial Team (Y)
November 23, 2021

What is brachial plexus injury?

The brachial plexus is a nerves network that is responsible for the transmission of signals from your spine to your hand, arm, and shoulder. It’s possible for these nerves to be injured in many different ways. They can be compressed (pinched), stretched, or torn. Brachial plexus injuries can happen when a shoulder is pushed down at the same time the head is being pushed up and away from the shoulder. A direct blow can also compress the nerves. 

Minor injuries sometimes heal without medical intervention, but surgical repair is required if the brachial plexus has been severely injured.

When to see a doctor

Since brachial plexus injuries can cause permanent and lasting disability and weakness, you may need to see your physician even if your injury doesn’t seem serious. Seek medical care if you experience:

  1. Pain in your neck
  2. “Stingers” or “burners” that are recurring
  3. Weakness in one of your hands or arms
  4. Weakness in your shoulder, hand, or arm following an injury
  5. Symptoms in your arms and in your legs
  6. Symptoms in both of your arms

Outcome & complications of brachial plexus injury

Many injuries of the brachial plexus, whether they occur in adults or in children, heal over time and do not cause permanent damage. However, other injuries can cause problems that may be temporary or permanent such as:

  • Stiffness in the joints: When an arm or hand is paralyzed, even for a short time, joints can become stiff. This makes moving difficult, even if the paralysis is eventually resolved. Because of this, physical therapy is often recommended throughout the recovery period.  
  • Pain: Pain that is the result of nerve damage sometimes becomes chronic.  
  • Loss of sensation: When you are unable to feel sensation in your hand or arm, such as burns, your risk of injury to that limb is increased.  
  • Muscle atrophy: Nerves regenerate very slowly. It may take several years for them to heal following an injury. While they are healing, lack of use in the affected limb may lead to loss of muscle tissue in the extremity. 
  • Permanent disability: The recovery from a brachial plexus injury depends on the severity of the damage, the patient’s age and overall health, the location of the injury, and other factors. Despite surgery, some people experience varying degrees of disability, ranging from minor weakness in their shoulder to permanent paralysis of their arm. 

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