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Articles » NINDS Brachial Plexus Injuries Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Brachial Plexus Injuries Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Brachial Plexus Injuries Information Page: NINDS

Conditions: Brachial Plexus Injuries

What is Brachial Plexus Injuries?
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injuries are caused by damage to those nerves. Symptoms may include a limp or paralyzed arm, lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist, and lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand. Although injuries can occur at any time, many brachial plexus injuries happen during birth: the baby's shoulders may become impacted during the birth process causing the brachial plexus nerves to stretch or tear. There are four types of brachial plexus injuries: avulsion, the most severe type, in which the nerve is torn from the spine; rupture, in which the nerve is torn but not at the spinal attachment; neuroma, in which the nerve has tried to heal itself but scar tissue has grown around the injury, putting pressure on the injured nerve and preventing the nerve from conducting signals to the muscles; and neuropraxia or stretch, in which the nerve has been damaged but not torn. Neuropraxia is the most common type of brachial plexus injury.

Is there any treatment?
Some brachial plexus injuries may heal on their own. Many children improve or recover by 3 to 4 months of age. Treatment for brachial plexus injuries includes occupational or physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery.

What is the prognosis?
The site and type of brachial plexus injury determine the prognosis. For avulsion and rupture injuries there is no potential for recovery unless surgical reconnection is made in a timely manner. For neuroma and neuropraxia injuries the potential for recovery varies. Most patients with neuropraxia injuries recover spontaneously with a 90-100% return of function.

What research is being done?
The NINDS conducts and supports research on injuries to the nervous system such as brachial plexus injuries. Much of this research is aimed at finding ways to prevent and treat these disorders.

Selected references

Berkow, R (ed)
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy vol. II, 16th edition, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, p. 1442 (1992)

Bradley, W, et al (eds)
Neurology in Clinical Practice: Principles of Diagnosis and Management vol. II, Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, pp. 1804-1810 (1991)

Hershman, E.
Brachial Plexus Injuries Clinics in Sports Medicine, 9:2; 311-329 (April 1990)


Brachial Plexus Palsy Foundation
c/o 210 Springhaven Circle
Royersford, PA 19468
Tel: 610-792-0974

National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
1010 Wayne Avenue
Suite 800
Silver Spring, MD 20910-5633
Tel: 301-562-2400 800-346-2742
Fax: 301-562-2401

National Brachial Plexus/ Erb's Palsy Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 23
Larsen, WI 54947
Tel: 920-836-3843

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
(100 Route 37)
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
Tel: 203-746-6518 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-746-6481

Outreach [Brachial Plexus/Erb's Palsy newsletter]
1610 Kent Street
Kent, OH 44240

United Brachial Plexus Network
1610 Kent Street
Kent, OH 44240
Tel: 866-877-7004

This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892


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