Brachial plexus injuries during birth


If your baby has a brachial nerve injury, our expert surgeon can help restore shoulder function and relieve pain.

What is a brachial plexus injury?

A brachial plexus injury is when damage to the nerves has occured. It can affect newborn babies, causing weakness in the baby's hand, arm and shoulder.

The brachial plexus is a group of nerve fibres stemming from the spine and through the neck. If pressure is applied to the baby's head during delivery, these nerves can become damaged causing weakness or total lack of function.

Need to know

Symptoms vary according to the severity of the brachial plexus injury and how close to the spine it takes place. They appear shortly after birth and can range from some weakness to total paralysis of the arm. They can include:

  • limited movement down one side
  • hand may form a claw
  • abnormal muscle contractions

The most serious injuries may involve a total disconnection from the spinal cord (avulsion) or a severe tear (rupture). In these cases, symptoms can involve partial or total muscle paralysis, weakness.

Your consultant will discuss your baby's symptoms with you and help to make a diagnosis. They will usually assess your baby's motor function and range of movement and see if your baby can move certain muscles.

Your consultant may also order an X-ray to check there are no fractures to the clavicle bone and to develop a treatment plan.

Loss of function caused by brachial plexus in children can be treated by nerve grafting and nerve transfers:

  • Nerve graft repair is where a graft is taken from a different nerve and used to bridge a gap in an injured nerve.
  • Nerve transfer is where one end of an injured nerve is reattached using a healthy nerve.

In all cases, the earlier the baby is treated, the more likely they are to regain function in the arm.

Our Brachial plexus injuries during birth locations

The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London
The Wellington Hospital

The Wellington Hospital

8A Wellington Place NW8 9LE London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.