Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial Plexus Injury is a rare but severe nerve injury. The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves that arises from the spinal cord in the neck. The brachial plexus supplies the arm with feeling, movement, pain and other functions like skin sweating. In the neck these nerves are initially called roots as they run from spine. These nerve roots (indicated as C5, C6, C7, C8, T1) then form a network, or plexus, by joining with each other and separating to finally form the main nerves supplying the arm.

An injury can occur at different levels of this plexus and this will affect the symptoms that you have. The most common brachial plexus injury is from traction, or stretching. Brachial Plexus traction lesions may vary in severity from a mild stretch to a complete rupture. During birth, babies can suffer a traction lesion of the brachial plexus. In adults, traumatic brachial plexus injuries may occur due to a motor traffic accident. Also, the plexus can also be crushed, squashed or cut. This may be from an accident, fragments from a fracture (broken bone) or occasionally from surgery itself. In other, rare cases injury can be caused by inflammation (Parsonage-Turner syndrome).


Symptoms may include:

  • Pain (burning, crushing or like “electric shocks”) in hand/arm/shoulder
  • Weakness in shoulder/arm/hand
  • Loss of sensation or change of feeling in arm/hand

You may find your symptoms are worse in cold weather or when you are stressed or worried.


Brachial plexus traction injury is a 'closed injury': the nerves cannot be reliably evaluated from the outside. Therefore, a surgical exploration is needed to determine the chance for full or partial recovery. Depending on the severity and cause of the injury, surgery in adults usually is performed in the first days after the injury or natural recovery is awaited.

Within UNCH LUMC is specialised in diagnosing and treating babies, children and adults with a brachial plexus injury. More information can be found on the ZenuwCentrum website

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