Child care: Brachial plexus injuries

The brachial plexus is a complex bundle of nerves in the lower neck region behind the collarbone. It is important to note that these nerves provide movement and sensation to the arm, shoulder, hand and wrist.

Why does it occur?

There are 2 ways in which children can end up with an injury to the brachial plexus:

  • During birth – a brachial plexus injury occurs in some cases of live births. It often occurs when the neck of the infant is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery.
  • Trauma – the traumatic injuries can occur due to accidents from bikes, motor vehicles, ATVs, sports or a knife or gunshot wound.

Indications

Brachial plexus injuries

The traumatic injuries can occur due to accidents from bikes, motor vehicles, ATVs, sports or a knife or gunshot wound.

The arm of the child might appear limp or paralyzed. The child might lack muscular control and/or feeling or even sensation in the arm, shoulder, hand or wrist.

Management of brachial plexus injuries

The manner on how the brachial plexus injury occurred can affect how it is assessed and treated.

  • If it took place at birth – many babies with brachial plexus birth palsy are assessed frequently to check if the nerves are recovering. Oftentimes, daily physical therapy exercises are advised.
  • If it occurred during an accident – in case an object such as a knife penetrated the plexus and damages it, the doctor might advise surgery to check the area if the nerves require repair.

In some forms of injuries to the brachial plexus, they could not be fixed with surgery. In such cases, the doctor might suggest a combination of physical and occupational therapy to restore functionality to the arm of the child.

Outlook

Oftentimes, after an injury to the brachial plexus, a child might not regain full functionality of the shoulder, arm, wrist or arm. Many continue to suffer from some weakness and pain as well.

The doctor might utilize the other tendons, muscles or nerves that are still working properly to help improve the function. As a child ages, his/her doctor will discuss different treatment options. It is vital to comply with regular follow-up appointments after the injury to guarantee the best outcome.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on brachial plexus injuries is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to manage nerve injuries including damage to the brachial plexus, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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