Brachial plexus injuries refer to damage to a bundle of nerves in the neck region of the spinal cord which send signals from the spine to the shoulder, hand and arm. These nerves serve the muscles to the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hands and give the arms their feeling. These injuries may be caused by shoulder trauma, a birth injury, tumours or inflammation and can result in full paralysis or lack of muscle control or feeling.

Injuries to the brachial plexus are common in high speed road traffic accidents involving motorcyclists because of heavy impacts to the shoulder with the road or with other vehicles.

Brachial plexus injuries can also be a birth injury caused when the baby’s shoulder is stretched during its passage down the birth canal – (popularly but incorrectly known as Erb’s Palsy). A brachial plexus injury can sometimes occur due to excessive traction on the baby’s head during a difficult delivery.

Although many brachial plexus injuries may heal without treatment (or improve with age in the case of infants) for most injuries, physical therapy, rehabilitation or even surgery will be necessary. Unfortunately, for the most severe injuries, there may be little or no chance of a full recovery.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can usually be confirmed by electromyography (EMG), or nerve conduction studies (NCS). MRI scans and CAT scans can be used to provide imagery of your spinal cord and nerve roots.

Treatment

If a decision is made to attempt surgical repairs, it will usually involve the transfer or grafting of nerves and/or muscles to the affect area.  The success of surgical repair is increased with early intervention.

If you or a loved one have suffered a brachial plexus injury, please contact Ronan Hynes, Partner or a member of the Sellors Serious Injury Team on 061 432 348 or by email at info@sellors.ie.

 

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