Legal teams and case managers supporting clients living with the impact of brachial plexus injury should be aware of the range of complications that the injury can cause an individual.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibres that supply the skin and muscles of the upper arm. This network of nerves send and receive the motor and sensory impulses from the spinal cord and transmit them to the arm, forearm and hand.

Most traumatic brachial plexus injuries occur when the arm or the shoulder is violently or forcefully stretched or pulled. Common examples of such traumatic events are:

  • Motorcycle collisions (most common)
  • The forceful delivery of a child
  • A fall from height
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Contact sports

Nontraumatic conditions resulting in brachial plexus injury include:

  • Tumours, which may damage these nerves either by invading these nerves or compressing them leading to disruption of electrical communication occurring at the plexus
  • Radiotherapy
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome, a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed
  • Idiopathic neuralgic amyotrophy, a rare disorder of the peripheral nervous system

With a brachial plexus injury, sensory and motor function of the arm may be completely or partially impaired and the patient often experiences severe neuropathic, or nerve, pain.

Symptoms can range in severity and can vary from being mild numbness in the limb or electric shock-like sensations in the arm to the weakness of the muscles of the upper limb. Brachial plexus injury can also result in complete paralysis of the arm.

Neurorehabilitation following brachial plexus injury

Treatment and rehabilitation strategies for brachial plexus injury depend on the cause of injury, its severity, and the type of injury that has been inflicted as well as any pre-existing medical conditions the patient may have.

Management includes surgeries to harvest nerve grafts from other parts of the body and transplanting them in place of the damaged nerve. Nerve repair, nerve transfer, and muscle transfers are other surgical approaches that are undertaken with respect to the part of plexus that has been damaged.

Neurorehabilitation is essential to accelerate the healing process and regain normal to the near-normal functional potential of an individual.

Neuro-physiotherapy is also advised ensuring the patient keeps their joints and muscles moving, maintaining their arm motion and avoiding the arm from becoming stiff and rigid. Occupational therapy and clinical psychology might also be recommended to the patient in order to cope the resulting impact of severe brachial plexus injury. Clinical psychologists come into play for maintaining the mental health of the injured patient and managing any psychological symptoms the patient may present with.

Instruct a medical expert specialising in brachial plexus injury

The brachial plexus injury specialists at NRC Medical Experts assess, evaluate and produce high-quality court reports and expert witness testimony to support legal teams to build the best case for your client.

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