Published: Nov. 11, 2010
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal chord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. These fragile nerves can become damaged, leading to a disconnect in the messages being sent.
Injuries can occur from trauma, from a fall or accident or direct violence. Brachial plexus injuries may be associated with childbirth. Nerves can be severed or stretched, and in severe cases may be torn from their roots in the neck.
If you or your physician suspect that you have a brachial plexus injury, you should seek specialty evaluation as soon as possible -- preferably within one month following the injury.
Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a comprehensive physical examination. Sometimes, additional tests are recommended, such as a nerve test, and MRI, or other imaging studies.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, which use magnetic field and radio waves, may help with diagnosis. Additionally, x-rays may be taken and electromyography (EMG), an evaluation of the skeletal muscles' electrical activity, may be performed.
Often brachial plexus injury can heal with time and therapy -- a process that could take weeks or months. However, when an injury is unlikely to improve, surgery may be recommended.
Duke Orthopaedics treats brachial plexus injuries at locations throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.