Brachial plexus injury (shoulder nerve)

Shoulder | Orthopaedics | Brachial plexus injury (shoulder nerve) (Disease)


A brachial plexus injury is an injury to the brachial plexus, the network of nerves that sends signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm and hand.

Signs and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury vary greatly, depending on the severity and location of your injury. Minor damage occurred during contact sports can produce the following symptoms: a feeling like an electric shock or a burning sensation shooting down the arm, numbness and weakness in the arm. More-severe symptoms resulted from injuries that tear or rupture the nerves can cause: severe pain; complete lack of movement and feeling in your entire arm, including shoulder and hand; the ability to use your fingers, but not your shoulder or elbow muscles or the ability to use your arm but not your fingers. Some injuries can cause temporary or permanent problems such as: stiff joints, loss of feeling, muscle atrophy or permanent disability.

Causes and Risk factors

Brachial plexus injuries, or lesions, can occur as a result of shoulder trauma, tumors, or inflammation. These injuries can occur in several ways: contact sports particularly football and wrestling, difficult births, trauma.

Traumatic brachial plexus injuries may arise from several causes, including sports, high-velocity motor vehicle accidents, especially in motorcyclists, but also all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) accidents. A rare condition known as Parsonage-Turner syndrome (brachial plexitis) causes brachial plexus inflammation with no apparent shoulder injury.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis may be confirmed by an electromyography (EMG) examination in 5 to 7 days. Also CT, MRI and nerve conduction studies may be done.

Some brachial plexus injuries may heal by themselves, without treatment. In other cases, treatment for brachial plexus injuries includes orthosis/splinting,occupational or physical therapy and, sometime, surgery. Drugs containing opiates, such as codeine, are typically used immediately after the injury. Antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications also can be helpful. ...