The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near the neck that are responsible for influencing the nerves that provide movement and feeling of the arm, hand and fingers. These nerves pass from the spinal cord through the vertebrae of the neck and into the arm. The nerves then come together close to the side of the neck before passing through the collarbone and spreading into the arm.
The brachial plexus nerves that control the arm and shoulder are higher in the neck than the nerves that control the hands and fingers. There are generally four types of brachial plexus nerve injuries that can occur:
- Neurapraxia – This is the most common injury that shocks the nerve. However, the nerve is not torn. In most cases the injury heals in about three months.
- Neuroma – This type of injury involves damage to the nerve fibers that result in scar tissue that presses on a surrounding nerve that is healthy. With this type of injury some recovery can be obtained.
- Tear or Rupture – There are some brachial plexus nerve injuries that involve a tear or rupture to the nerve. This type of injury requires medical assistance. Physicians can spice a donor nerve graft. The results of these nerve grafts vary, leave scarring, take a lot of time to heal, and do not help older infants.
- Avulsion – This is the most serious type of brachial plexus injury. It occurs when the nerve has been torn from the spinal cord and it cannot be repaired.
Brachial plexus birth injuries have a significant impact on both the parents and the child. The child will need frequent medical examinations in order to monitor the child’s recovery. He or she will also need rehabilitative motion therapy. All treatments, medical and rehabilitative will require greater health care costs.
The child may also experience long term effects that can result in lifelong limitations, depending on how severe the birth injuries were, and whether they were resolved early in the infant’s life. Negative results can become even worse when the birth injury was a result of medical malpractice due to a deviation from acceptable standards of care by physicians.
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