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Brachial Plexus Palsy

Brachial Plexus Palsy occurs when the brachial plexus, a network of nerves emerging from the spinal cord, is damaged. Since the brachial plexus conducts signals from the spine, through the neck, across the shoulders, along the arms, into the hand and ultimately, to the fingers tips, when it is damaged a limp arm can result.

Brachial Plexus Injury in Children
Most often brachial plexus injuries occur during birth when excessive lateral traction is applied to the fetal neck region.
In cases of brachial plexus palsy the upper part of the brachial plexus is involved. Brachial plexus injuries overwhelmingly result from traumatic stretching of the plexus during birth. Many babies with brachial plexus injuries are larger than average at birth, though any newborn can have this birth injury. Size alone does not determine if a baby will be born with a brachial plexus palsy since newborns of any size can have these injures. About 1 or 2 babies out of every one thousand deliveries suffer a brachial plexus injuries at birth.

Brachial Plexus Injury in Adults
In adults, the mechanism for a brachial plexus palsy is much the same. Most frequently, an adult will suffer this type of injury when excessive force is placed upon the brachial plexus network for an excessive amount of time. An example of this type of event would be a patient being left on their back during surgery with their arm dangling off the table for a prolonged period.

Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
Whether occurring in a child or an adult, there are four major types of injuries which occur to the nerves in the brachial plexus network which can result in some form of palsy:

1. an avulsion meaning the nerve is torn from the spine.

2. a rupture meaning the nerve is torn but not where it attaches to the spine.

3. a neuroma meaning the nerve has tried to heal but scar tissue has grown around the injury placing pressure on the injured nerve praxis. While the nerve has been damaged, it has not been torn and improvement should be seen within 3 months.

4. Neuropraxia is the mildest form of nerve injury. Neuropraxia, the most common form of Erb's Palsy is localized to the specific place where the injury occurs. It is a physiologic block of nerve conduction within an axon without any anatomical interruption. Many infants born with brachial plexus palsy have neuropraxia and sometimes recover within 4-6 weeks.

If you or your child suffers from a brachial plexus injury and wish to bring legal action to receive compensation for physical and emotional damages, medical expenses and/or lost earnings capacity, please contact us for a free evaluation.