Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is a network of intertwined nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulders, arms, and hands. A traumatic brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or in severe cases, torn away from the spinal cord. When this happens, one may experience weakness, numbness, loss of sensation or movement in his/her shoulder, arm, or hand. Mild brachial plexus injuries may heal on their own without treatment, however most are severe injuries that require surgery to regain arm and hand function.
The five nerves that originate in the spinal cord at the neck form the brachial plexus, and this network of nerves is present on each side of the body. The plexus connects these five nerves with the nerves that provide sensation and movement of the arm and hand. Each of the five nerves in the brachial plexus has a different function, for instance, to power specific muscles or carry specific sensory information from the hand to the brain. As such, determining the location of the nerve injury within the plexus is crucial in identifying the deficits and therefore outcomes, as well as treatment options available.
Traumatic brachial plexus injuries can occur when your arm is forcefully pulled or stretched. Damage to the upper nerves that make up the brachial plexus often occurs when your shoulder is forced down while your neck stretches up and away from the injured shoulder. On the other hand, lower nerves tend to be injured when your arm is forced above your head.
Events such as falls and motorcycle collisions are some of the common causes of brachial plexus injuries.
The symptoms of brachial plexus injuries are dependent on the type and location of injury. The most common symptoms of brachial plexus injuries includes:
- Numbness or loss of sensation of arm and/or hand
- Weakness of loss of movement or paralysis of arm and/or hand
- Pain that usually results from injury to the spinal cord. The pain is typically neuropathic in nature, and tends to last a long time.
Aside from all these symptoms listed, injuries nearer the spinal cord may cause a burning numbness known as paresthesias or dysesthesias.
The specialist will need to review your symptoms and conduct a thorough physical examination. Furthermore, to help diagnose the extent and severity of a brachial plexus injury, they may also send you for tests such as MRI and electrophysiological studies.
Mild brachial plexus injuries can heal on its own over a period of weeks to months, without surgery. Hence, depending on the severity of your injury, your hand specialist in Singapore may opt to monitor your injury or delay the procedures. During the healing process, you may be started on physical therapy to prevent muscle and joint stiffness.
Surgery becomes necessary if the nerves are unable to restore necessary function to the arm and hand or they have no chance of spontaneous recovery. Brachial plexus injuries are highly complex problems but there are still many surgical options available. Hence, it is always best to speak with your hand specialist to determine the best treatment option available for you.
Every case is different, hence it is best to consult hand specialists who are highly skilled in managing such conditions. Reach out to Dr Jacqueline Tan today if you are suffering from brachial plexus injuries and let her help you.