What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?

The "brachial plexus" is a complicated arrangement of nerves that go from the spinal column in the neck down to the fingertips.  This injury most commonly happens at birth, but it can also be a traumatic injury, like a motorcycle or a car accident.

There are four types of brachial plexus injuries:

   * avulsion, the most severe type, in which the nerve is torn from the spine;
   * rupture, in which the nerve is torn but not at the spinal attachment;
   * neuroma, in which the nerve has tried to heal itself but scar tissue has grown around the injury, putting pressure on the injured nerve and preventing the nerve from conducting signals to the muscles; and
   * neuropraxia or stretch, in which the nerve has been damaged but not torn.

It could involve many nerves and might be a combination of the above. In a birth injury, the infant is left with a paralyzed arm (or two) and a lifetime of secondary issues that affect the entire body, daily life and the emotional, social and spiritual being... including that of family, surrounding friends and community as well.

A very large population of babies with brachial plexus injuries have a permanent disability.  New studies also show that some of the children who were considered to have temporary, mild brachial plexus injuries, are showing up at specialized clinics at later ages, with deformities that may or may not be able to be corrected.

This injury is not rare, but rarely is it mentioned.  An OBPI is more common than down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and as common as cerebral palsy.  Help us to spread the word!

RISK FACTORS FOR AN OBSTETRIC BRACHIAL PLEXUS INJURY:
  
   * Suspected large baby - over 8 lbs. 14 oz.
   * Maternal diabetes / gestational diabetes (fetal assymetry)
   * Maternal obesity
   * An overdue baby - over 40 weeks
   * Short maternal stature
   * Contracted or flat (platypelloid) pelvis
   * Maternal weight gain -more than 35 lbs.
   * Protracted first stage of labor
   * Prolonged second stage of labor