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What are brachial plexus injuries?

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injuries are caused by damage to those nerves. The symptoms include a limp or paralyzed arm; lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist; and a lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand. Brachial plexus injuries can occur as a result of trauma, tumors, or inflammation of the shoulder. There is a rare syndrome called Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, or brachial plexitis, which causes inflammation of the brachial plexus without any obvious shoulder injury. This syndrome can begin with severe shoulder or arm pain followed by weakness and numbness. In infants, brachial plexus injuries may happen during birth if the baby's shoulder is stretched during passage in the birth canal.

The severity of a brachial plexus injury is determined by the type of damage done to the nerves. The most severe type, avulsion, is caused when the nerve root is severed or cut from the spinal cord. There is also an incomplete form of avulsion in which part of the nerve is damaged, which leaves some opportunity for the nerve to slowly recover function. Neuropraxia, or stretch injury, is the mildest type of injury Neuropraxia damages the protective covering of the nerve, which causes problems with nerve signal conduction, but does not always damage the nerve underneath.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.