Brachial plexus injuries are traumatic injuries that may affect the entire upper extremity, including your shoulder, arm, and hand. Though brachial plexus injuries may heal on their own, in some situations, surgery is recommended. Anthony Echo, MD, is an experienced plastic surgeon with fellowship training in peripheral nerve repair and specializes in the surgical management of brachial plexus injuries. To schedule a surgical consultation, call the office in Houston Methodist Hospital or the Willowbrook neighborhood of Houston, Texas, or request an appointment online today.
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that exit your cervical spine and travel down the neck and into the arm. These nerves support muscle movement in your shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand, and provide feeling in your hand.
Brachial plexus injuries occur when the nerves get compressed, stretched, severed, or torn from the root at the spinal cord. Brachial plexus injuries are very traumatic since they may affect the entire upper extremity.
Minor brachial plexus injuries, or stingers, are common sports injuries. More severe brachial plexus injuries occur during car or motorcycle accidents and may lead to permanent paralysis of the arm.
Symptoms of brachial plexus injuries vary depending on the severity of the injury.
With a minor injury, you may experience electric shock-like sensations as the injury occurs, followed by weakness or numbness that travels down your arm. In some cases, these symptoms may only last a few minutes.
With more serious brachial plexus injuries, symptoms may include:
Brachial plexus injuries can lead to long-term disability, even from a minor injury. If you suspect brachial plexus injuries, Dr. Echo can help.
Dr. Echo conducts a comprehensive clinical exam and runs diagnostic tests to diagnose brachial plexus injuries. During your clinical exam, he reviews your symptoms and how the injury occurred, and then examines your upper extremity.
To assess the severity of the damage, Dr. Echo performs an electromyography (EMG) and MRI.
Treatment for brachial plexus injuries depends on the severity of the damage. For a closed injury (no cut), Dr. Echo closely monitors the healing and recovery process over a three to six month period.
If the brachial plexus injury fails to heal, Dr. Echo recommends surgery. For closed brachial plexus injuries, Dr. Echo may transfer a nerve, repair your nerve, or transfer muscles.
Open brachial plexus injuries require early exploration. During the procedure, Dr. Echo repairs your nerve or transfers a nerve immediately to allow for a faster recovery.
For patients who present late or have a complete brachial plexus palsy, muscle transfers, tendon transfers, and joint fusions may be necessary to regain some function. A careful examination is necessary to evaluate which nearby muscles and tendons are working so that a successful surgery can be planned. These transfers rely on retraining the working muscle or tendon to do a new function.
Brachial plexus injuries require immediate medical care to prevent long-term disability. For expert care from a fellowship-trained surgical specialist, call Anthony Echo, MD, or request an appointment online today.