Brachial plexus injury is a medical emergency caused due to an injury to the brachial plexus group of nerves that sends signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm, and hand. These nerves control and administer feelings in the muscles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and arm. This damage is also known as brachial plexopathy. Brachial plexus injury appears when these nerves are compressed, stretched, or in the most serious case, ripped apart from the spinal cord. Some brachial plexus injuries known as stingers or burners are inconsequential and will completely recover in a few weeks. However, other brachial plexus injuries are severe enough and may cause some permanent impairment in the arm. In severe conditions, it can paralyze your arm, with a failure of function and sensation.
Brachial plexus injury results when the brachial nerves are damaged by excessive stretching, pressure, or cutting. Stretching can occur when your shoulder is forced down while your neck stretches up and away from the injured shoulder such as during a motorcycle or a car accident. In case of a serious injury, the brachial nerve may rip off the spinal cord in the neck. This type of brachial plexus injury is classified as traumatic brachial plexus injuries. It may occur because of different reasons, including:
Brachial plexopathy may also result from exposure to radiation at the time of stereotactic radiosurgery or specific procedures such as stereotactic breast biopsy.
Symptoms of the brachial plexus injury depend on the seriousness of the injury. A minor injury can often occur during any contact sport and minor trauma when the brachial plexus nerves get stretched or compressed. Minor brachial plexus injury symptoms include the following:
More serious brachial plexus injury symptoms result when nerves are torn or ruptured. Such injuries may produce the following symptoms:
In case of childbirth brachial plexus injury, symptoms can be seen right after the birth of the child. These may include:
Some common types of surgical brachial plexus injury treatment include the following:
It is very hard to assess an exact recovery time after brachial plexus injury treatment due to the broad spectrum. How likely a spontaneous recovery depends on the type and severity of the injury.
In the case of surgery, nerve tissue grows very slowly, about an inch a month, so it can take a few years to assess the success of brachial plexus injury surgery. However, during the recovery period, patients are encouraged to keep their joints flexible by following an exercise schedule. The success rate of surgery is quite good but recovery time and success rate must be assessed on an individual basis.
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