What is Brachial Plexopathy?

The brachial plexus is a group of spinal nerves that extend through the arm to the hand. Nerve roots leave the neck and shoulder where nerves from the spinal cord divide into the specific nerves for the arm to form a web. Brachial plexopathy occurs when the brachial plexus is not operating correctly, causing a lack of movement and lack of feeling in the arm and shoulder. It can be caused by disease, most commonly an autoimmune disorder that can cause a painful neuritis in the shoulder. In this condition, often called brachial neuritis, the immune system is switched on and overactive for a short time, and then symptoms begin to slowly improve. These symptoms can also be caused by traumatic injury to the area. Damage to it can cause numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in various areas of the arm, hand and shoulder, depending on which part of the plexus is injured.

Who gets Brachial Plexopathy?

Brachial plexopathy is caused by inflammation, direct trauma, stretch injuries, pressure from tumors in the area, and radiation therapy to the brachial plexus. It may also be caused during birth. As the baby is being delivered, its shoulders may be wedged in the birth canal, which causes the brachial plexus to stretch and tear. 2 out of 10,000 babies may develop brachial plexopathy. However, children and adults can also develop it as a neuritis or by injuring their brachial plexus, which often happens in automobile accidents. Recovery is usually satisfactory after brachial neuritis, but may not occur in cases of severe injury.

How is Brachial Plexopathy diagnosed?

Brachial plexopathy can be diagnosed by EMGs, nerve conduction studies, and MRI scans.

How is Brachial Plexopathy treated?

Treatment for brachial plexopathy is aimed at restoring independence . This can include physical therapy, braces and splints, analgesics, and rarely corticosteroids, and surgery.

More Information

American Chronic Pain Association
American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons
National Library of Medicine
Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare

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