Injuries to the brachial plexus (the nerves that conduct signals to the shoulder, arm, and hand) can have devastating consequences, including loss of function and chronic pain. Fortunately, new advances in nerve surgery can yield marked improvement in movement and function of the shoulder, elbow, and hand, while simultaneously diminishing pain.
The nerves that make up the brachial plexus originate at the spinal
cord and correspond to four cervical (neck) vertebrae and one thoracic (upper back) vertebra.
The nerves divide and join repeatedly before terminating in several peripheral nerves that branch out to supply the muscles of the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and hand. In addition to "communicating" with the muscles that lift, lower, straighten, and bend the arm, the nerve complex serves as the pathway to communicate sensory perception to the brain.
In adults, brachial plexus injuries are almost always the result of a high impact injury, such as a motorcycle, skiing, or snowboarding accident. In some cases, however, a tumor or radiation may be the underlying cause. Brachial plexus injuries in children usually occur at birth.