Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy Injury

Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy Injury

Call for an Appointment

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, when necessary, surgery. Our goal is to help your child regain lost feeling and achieve full range of motion.

Our Doctors
Meet our doctors, view their profiles, and select the one that’s right for you.
sliders Refine Results
Use My Current Location Locations Near You
Find a Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy Injury Doctor
Matching Results
Showing of Doctors
Load More View All

About Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy 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.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.


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

Physical and Occupational Therapy (PT/OT)

Ongoing PT/OT can be beneficial in all cases. The exercises prevent your baby’s muscles and joints from tightening and increase your baby’s range of motion. Some babies may only require PT/OT; however, exercises can also help your child regain function after surgery if it is required.

Brachial Plexus Reconstruction (Nerve Grafting)

This procedure is typically performed between three and nine months of age when a baby’s nerves do not recover on their own. Pediatric plastic surgeons identify the parts of the brachial plexus that are not working and replace the damaged nerves with a portion of healthy nerve (called grafts) taken from your child’s legs. These grafts help new nerves grow out of the spinal cord and down toward the muscles of the shoulder, arm, and hand. Nerve regrowth is a slow process. It may take one year to see significant changes in your child's movements.

Tendon Transfer

This procedure may be performed in addition to, or instead of, reconstructing the brachial plexus. An orthopaedic surgeon transfers healthy muscle and tendons to replace damaged muscle and nerve. It is usually performed in older children (around age two) to improve stability or range of motion in the shoulder. Some tendon transfers may also be useful to improve elbow and wrist function. 

toy phone
Call for an Appointment

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.

Child Life

Whether it's explaining a procedure or offering encouragement and emotional support, we provide care for you and your child in a warm, welcoming environment. We’re here to help you cope as your child goes through treatment and recovery.

Care Coordination and Support

It’s helpful to have a team on your side to assist you in managing your child’s care. Our care coordinators and social workers help you navigate the medical system and coordinate the health services your child's needs. They can help you work with insurance providers, connect with resources, and manage the details related to your child’s care. Our nurse coordinators can help you schedule appointments for tests, treatments, and other medical visits.

Ronald McDonald House Family Room

A comfortable place to take a break at the hospital. You can grab a light meal, shower, do laundry, or use a computer with internet access. Staffed by volunteers, the family room is here to make your time at the hospital less stressful.

Best Children's Hospital in NC
In addition to being among the best in the country, Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.

A Team Approach to Birth-Related Brachial Plexus Injury

Our team approach means that one or more of the following experts may be involved in your child’s care.

Physical and Occupational Therapists
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
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
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.