Brachial Plexus

What is the brachial plexus?

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that run from the cervical spinal cord in the neck to the shoulder, arm and hand. Their job is to tell the muscles in the top half of your body to move. They play a big part in the sensation of touch and feeling. If the brachial plexus is injured, it can cause weakness and numbness and leave you unable to move in your neck, arms and hands.

Brachial plexus injuries can result from pulling, stretching, tearing or pressure on the nerves.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Depending on a child’s age, different kinds of symptoms can appear. Babies may not move the injured arm. Babies may also hold the affected arm by their side, with the elbow straight, and the forearm and hand turned in.

Older children and teens may feel weakness or have no movement in the shoulder, arm or hand. They may also experience tingling or numbness in the affected area. There may be another injury along with a brachial plexus injury, including broken collarbones, shoulder, arm or hand. There may be other nerve issues as well.

Diagnosis

A physical and neurological exam may be needed. Tests such as MRI, EMG, ultrasound and X-ray may be ordered depending on your child’s condition.

How to treat

Your health-care provider will work with you and your child on a treatment plan that is based on your child’s age and the kind of brachial plexus issue your child is experiencing.
Many children can benefit from occupational therapy, depending on the type of injury. Some children may benefit from surgery, such as nerve grafting, nerve transfers, tendon or muscle transfers and osteotomies that reposition the bones.

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