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Brachial plexus injury

Our leading peripheral nerve surgeons diagnose and treat loss of function and pain caused by a brachial plexus injury

About

The brachial plexus is a group of five nerves which stem from the spinal cord in the neck. It connects the brain and spinal cord to the upper limb, allowing us movement and sensation.

Brachial plexus injuries happen when the arm is forcefully pulled or stretched. Falls, motorbike and car accidents and weapons can cause the injury.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of brachial plexus injury icon plus

    A brachial plexus injury in adults may involve each individual root and can result in:

    • avulsion (the root is torn from the spinal cord)
    • rupture (a tear at root level)

    The most common symptoms of brachial plexus injury include:

    • weakness or numbness
    • loss of sensation
    • paralysis
    • pain

    Neuropathic pain might mean that the root is torn from the spinal cord. It usually feels like stabbing, crushing, burning and tingling. If there is an electric sensation down the arm when the side of the neck is tapped (Tinel's sign), an urgent nerve repair operation is carried out. Nerve repairs are more successful carried out soon after the injury.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and help to make a diagnosis. If you've been in an accident, the diagnosis will be performed urgently. They will conduct a physical exam on all nerve groups controlled by the brachial plexus and look at the whole upper limb for symptoms. If they suspect brachial plexus injury, they might order the following:

    • MRI of the neck, chest and spine to help locate the injury
    • CT scan; here, dye is injected into the spinal cord and neck to display avulsion injuries
    • electrodiagnostic test; these can highlight nerve damage weeks of an injury, showing the full extent of the nerve degeneration
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Urgent surgery may be performed when there's been trauma and there's a Tinel’s sign (an electric sensation shooting down the arm). This means there's a good chance that the nerve can be saved. In less urgent cases, surgery may be recommended if the nerve isn't healing on its own. Your surgeon will either reattach both sides of a severed nerve (nerve repair) or use a nerve from somewhere else in your body (nerve graft) to guide the existing nerve fibres and help them grow into the muscle. The process of the nerve healing itself takes time and your doctor may recommend physical therapy to prevent joint and muscle stiffness.
Consultant in theatres

Our consultants

We're proud to work with leading experts across a range of medical fields, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

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