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What Is a Brachial Plexus Injury?

You gave birth to your child after months of waiting. Shortly after a difficult birth, you discovered that your child had suffered a brachial plexus injury. What exactly is this injury and how will it affect your child?

How Brachial Plexus Injuries Happen

There is a cluster of nerves that send signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand. This is called the brachial plexus. During the birthing process, the infant’s shoulder may bet caught, or the doctor may use too much force to assist the infant in emerging from the birth canal. When either of these things happen, the nerves can be pulled or torn.

Infants who suffer a brachial plexus injury may be diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, a paralysis of the upper brachial plexus. Alternatively, they may be diagnosed with Klumpke’s palsy, or paralysis of the lower brachial plexus. Children with Erb’s palsy may lose motion around the shoulder or elbow, and children with Klumpke’s palsy may lose movement of the wrist or hand.

Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medicine have divided brachial plexus injuries into six types. The ability to recover from such an injury depends upon its severity.

  • Avulsion: This is when the nerve is completely torn from the spine. There is no chance of recovering from this injury.
  • Rupture: A rupture occurs when the nerve is partially stretched or torn.
  • Neurapraxia: The nerve is only gently pulled or compressed. Chances of recovery are excellent.
  • Axonotemesis: The axons of the nerve cells have been cut. There is a moderate chance of recovery.
  • Neurotemesis: This is diagnosed when the entire nerve has been severed. There is a chance of recovery but it is small.
  • Neuroma: The torn nerve healed but a tumor developed. The chances of recovery depend on the unique injury.

When brachial plexus injuries heal on their own, they typically do so by the time the child is four months old. In other cases, children require physical therapy or surgery if there is any hope of recovery.

If your child has been diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury, call our office. We will review the details of your case and advise you of your options. We are here for you and your family. Reach out to us today.

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