Brachial Plexus Injuries in Adults
The brachial plexus are the nerves that control the hand, arm, and shoulder.
Erb’s Palsy (or Erb-Duchenne Palsy) refers to upper nerve damage. A different but related injury is Total Brachial Plexus Palsy also known as Klumpke’s Palsy which refers to the lower and upper nerves being injured.
Adult Brachial Plexus Injury
Brachial plexus injuries can occur as a result of auto accidents. Because of improved accident victim survival rates, we see an increase in people with traumatic brachial plexus injuries.
Symptoms can include weakness and/or burning pain in the neck, shoulder, arm and hand. Obtaining an accurate and timely diagnosis, followed by treatments like surgery and rehabilitation will be needed for a considerable time. Brachial plexus injuries include:
- Neurapraxia where the nerve was stretched or compressed.
- Ruptures when a nerve is torn, but not where it attaches to the spine.
- Avulsions, whereby the nerve root is torn AND separated from the spinal cord.
- Neuroma is when scar tissue is formed putting pressure on the injured nerve.
Other associated terms are:
- Waiter’s Tip which is when the arm hangs down and the hand is turned backward.
- Horner’s Syndrome which can affect the nerves leading to the face and eye.
- Treatment options vary and at the least will include occupational and/or physical therapy to increase function. Healing for a more minimal injury may take from three months to two years. A more severe injury may require multiple surgeries.
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