Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy Injury

Brachial plexus injuries associated with birth are treated at Duke by a team of experts who specialize in helping your child regain strength and movement in his or her arm. We evaluate your child’s injury, monitor nerve recovery and growth, and create a treatment plan that includes physical therapy exercises and surgery when necessary. Our goal is to help your child regain lost feeling and full range of motion.

Team Approach to Birth-Related Brachial Plexus Injury

During a difficult birth, the brachial plexus nerves that run between the neck and shoulder can tear or stretch as the baby comes through the birth canal. Damaged nerves can lead to a loss of feeling and movement from the shoulder to the wrist and fingers. The severity of the injury will determine how much function your child loses. Symptoms can range from minor weakness to complete paralysis.

Fortunately, most brachial plexus injuries are minor and heal on their own, over time. Our team’s experts will evaluate your child soon after birth to determine the severity of the injury and to make sure your child gets the therapy and support he or she needs. As your child grows, one or more of the following experts may be involved in your child’s care.

  • Physical and occupational therapists perform a comprehensive assessment of your baby to determine whether exercise can improve muscle strength and range of motion. It’s critical that therapy start as soon as possible to keep joints supple and to keep muscles fit and healthy.
  • Neurologists evaluate the extent of your child’s injury at specific age-related milestones. They work closely with physical and occupational therapists to determine if progress is being achieved, and whether and when surgery should be the next step.
  • Pediatric plastic surgeons assess whether early surgery to remove scar tissue and replace damaged nerves may restore lost sensation and movement in your child’s shoulder and arm.
  • Orthopaedic surgeons may recommend surgery to improve the function of the shoulder, elbow, or wrist by way of tendon-transfer operations. This typically takes place in children who are closer to age two.


We consider all aspects of your child’s condition as we work with you to select the best treatment for your baby.

Family and Support Services

We understand the emotional impact your baby’s brachial plexus injury can have on your family, so we offer special services to help you through it. You can depend on knowledgeable, compassionate experts at your side.

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