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Understanding Brachial Plexus Injuries

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that sends signals from your spine to the shoulders, arms and hands. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed or damaged. While usually minor, injuries can result in a complete loss of feeling in the affected area.

Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include:

  • Neck pain
  • Paralysis of the arm
  • Reoccurring numbness or tingling pain in the shoulders and arms (often called “burners” or “stingers”)
  • Weakness in the arms and hands

Brachial plexus injuries often occur during contact sports, such as football, or an automobile accident. If your child has been hurt and is complaining of any of the listed symptoms, get them checked out immediately to prevent any further nerve damage.

Children can also be born with a brachial plexus injury as a result of a complication at birth, such as a breech or difficult delivery. Your doctor will help guide you through the proper care options if this occurs.

Expanding Your Treatment Options

The Brachial Plexus Program at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is able to provide you and your child with some of the most comprehensive care for brachial plexus injuries. A team of experts, including a pediatric neurosurgeon, physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon, will partner with you and your child to determine the best course of action.

In cases of minor injury, usually the best option is to give it time. Stretched nerves can heal and repair themselves. Your child’s team may recommend gentle massage and range-of-motion exercises to aid muscle and joint movement.

Surgery may be required in more severe cases. However, your child will most likely have to wait several months after the injury. Depending on the type of nerve injury, your child’s doctors may recommend one of four surgeries:

  • Muscle transfer: Your child’s surgeons will take a less important muscle, such as one from the thigh, and reconnect the nerves in the brachial plexus to regain muscle function.
  • Nerve graft: In this operation, the damaged nerves are replaced with a graft of donor nerves. This is best proven to restore arm function.
  • Nerve transfer: If the brachial plexus root is damaged at the spinal cord, your child’s surgeons will reconnect them using a nerve taken from elsewhere in the body. Healing takes time, as the nerve will have to grow to its full potential.
  • Peripheral nerve surgery: If recovery from a stretched nerve does not occur, our team is able to reduce the tone of the affected area. Nerves that still function are spared in surgery. We’re the only hospital in Central Florida to offer this newly improved approach to peripheral nerve surgery.

If your child needs surgery, you can rely on our team of experts. The pediatric orthopedic specialists at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer have over 40 years of experience caring for families like yours. We stay up-to-date on procedures so your child can benefit from a range of treatment options.

Contact Us

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (407) 649-9111.