The brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed or ripped apart from the spinal cord.
Minor brachial plexus injuries are common from sports like football. Babies sometimes uphold brachial plexus injuries during birth. Sometimes inflammation or tumors may affect the brachial plexus. The severe brachial plexus injuries are the result of auto or motorcycle accidents. It can leave your arm paralyzed with the loss of function and sensation. The function can only be restored by nerve rafts, nerve transfer or muscles transfer.
Brachial plexus injuries can cause permanent weakness or disability. You may need the proper attention of the doctor and medical care. See your doctor if you have following symptoms
- Recurrent burners and stingers
- Weakness in your hand and arms
- Weakness following trauma
- Complete paralysis of the upper extremity following trauma
- Neck pain
- Symptoms in both arms
- Symptoms in upper and lower limbs
It is necessary that these symptoms are evaluated and treated within six to seven months after the injury. Delay in treatments can only leave you with the option of nerve surgeries. Generally, the brachial plexus injuries vary in severity. Mild injuries can be healed without much treatment. Just the proper diagnose is essential for deciding which patients have the potential for spontaneous recovery So that the surgery can be delayed for some time.
Surgical intervention serves two functions:
- Confirmation of diagnosis
- Repair of injury
During the surgery, the procedure to restore the function includes neurolysis, neurotization, tendon transfer and free muscles transfer. Nerve injury surgery to repair damaged nerves is a very complex process hence it requires a specialized experienced surgeon to do the surgery
Recovery after the surgery:
Recovery of function after the brachial plexus injury is a lengthy process. The growth of the nerve is about one inch per month. So it perhaps takes several months before the first sign of recovery is obvious. Recovery process starts from the muscles of the shoulder, to those of the arm, and finally the hand. Physical therapy is essential to strengthen recovering muscles and maintain flexibility of the joints.
The pain from the surgery can generally be managed by the medication given to the patients. In brachial plexus injuries associated with avulsion of nerve roots from the spinal cord, patients may develop severe pain. Additional intervention including DREZ procedure may be indicated.
The determination of the extent of recovery is usually not made until enough time has passed to complete reinnervation which is growing of nerves has taken place. Also, it needs proper strengthening of nerves which requires about two years. Recovery continues till four years.