What is a brachial plexus injury?
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that are found between the neck and the shoulder. These nerves control the movement and sensation of the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the nerves and where they are located, damage can occur to this area during a difficult delivery. The nerves can either be stretched, compressed or torn. This occurs in approximately 1-3 out of every 1,000 deliveries.
What are the symptoms of brachial plexus injury?
- Decreased movement or sensation to the upper limb on the affected side
- Muscle weakness in the upper limb
- Partial or total paralysis of the upper limb
Most newborn will recover from a brachial plexus injury with the guidance from a physician and physiotherapist. In some cases, where there’s significant damage to the nerves, surgical intervention may be necessary. As nerves grow slowly, it can take up to 2 years for this to resolve.
Because the newborn will have difficulty moving the affected arm, it is imperative that a physiotherapist is involved in developing a treatment plan with the guardians to prevent the joints in the upper limb (shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hands) from getting stiff due to inactivity.
If your newborn has a brachial plexus injury, call our Anderson Physiotherapy Team as they will provide you with the best treatment options and methods, with the focus on getting your newborn back to functional mobility in the affected arm.
Boston Children’s Hospital. (2021). Brachial Plexus Birth Injury. Retrieved from Boston Children’s Hospital: https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/b/brachial-plexus-injury
KidsHealth. (2018, June). Newborn Brachial Plexus Injuries. Retrieved from KidsHealth from Nemours: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/brachial-plexus.html
OrthoInfo. (2021). Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy). Retrieved from OrthoInfo: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/erbs-palsy-brachial-plexus-birth-palsy