A brachial plexus injury is a nerve injury affecting the shoulder, arm and/or hand. The injury is a result of a stretching and/or tearing of the network of nerves that send signals to this area of the body.
A brachial plexus injury can occur as the result of a car accident or sports injury. This injury also is commonly labeled as one of several possible types of birth injuries or birth traumas in cases affecting newborn babies.
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Brachial Plexus Injury in Children and Adults
A child or adult patient typically suffers a brachial plexus injury because of trauma incurred during an accident or physical activity.
Such an injury may be the result of:
- a sports injury (such as soccer, hockey or football);
- motor vehicle accident, including snowmobile and motorcycle accidents;
- bicycle crashes;
- slip or trip and falls; and
Some injuries manifest as the result of inflammation of the nerves or compression of the affected area (such as what can occur with the growth of a tumor).
Typical signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include:
- muscular weakness;
- difficultly moving the affected arm, shoulder or hand;
- loss of feeling or sensation in the affected limb; and
- difficulty moving the affected body parts.
Seek help from a medical professional if you experience any symptoms of brachial plexus injury after having been involved in an accident or similar trauma.
Brachial Plexus Injury as a Form of Birth Trauma
Brachial plexus palsy is among the common types of birth injury. This injury typically occurs during a difficult labor or delivery when a baby’s shoulders press on the mother’s pelvis, a condition known as shoulder dystocia. This might be the case if the baby is large and/or the mother’s pelvis is small. The injury might also occur, for example, as a result of the delivering doctor having asserted too much force. The trauma on the shoulder area causes a rupture or tearing of the nerves.
Two types of brachial plexus injury are:
- Erb’s palsy (injury to the upper branch of nerves, affecting the shoulder and elbow); and
- Klumpke’s palsy (injury to the lower branch of nerves, affecting the wrist and hand).
Your child’s prognosis depends on the degree of injury and the use of early intervention and treatment.
Complications of a Brachial Plexus Injury
According to the Mayo Clinic, many brachial plexus injuries resolve with time and sufficient treatment.
However, long-term effects of injury may include:
- chronic pain;
- neuropathic pain;
- loss of muscle mass in the affected arm and shoulder;
- permanent loss of sensation;
- chronic stiffness in the joints; and
The long-term implications of a brachial plexus injury vary with the nature of the injury. For instance, an avulsion injury (detachment of nerve from spinal cord) signifies a significant level of injury from which the nerve cannot recover. On the other hand, neuropraxia (such as minor compression of the nerve) indicates a less severe degree of injury from which a nerve may be expected to heal.
Specialized medical treatment may be required to treat brachial plexus injury in an infant, child or adult. Learn about your options for financial recovery by scheduling a free case consultation with an attorney at the Preszler Law Firm. Call us at 1-800-JUSTICE®.