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What are the severity levels of brachial plexus injuries?

Pregnant women in New Mexico might want obtain information about the brachial plexus and the injuries that could occur to this group of nerves, because there is always some risk at childbirth. The brachial plexus begins at the base of the neck and extends through the shoulders and into the arms and hands.

There are three severities of brachial plexus injury. A stretch injury is the least severe and involves the stretching of the trunks, or primary nerves, and cords, or smaller nerves. A neurapraxia injury could occur, producing swelling around the nerves and preventing some sensations and movement in the arms and hands. These functions return when the swelling subsides. Stretch injuries can heal in as little as weeks if the nerve tissue does not suffer substantial damage.

A rupture injury occurs when at least one nerve is stretched beyond its limits and either partially or completely tears. The symptoms experienced depend on the severity of the rupture. With a partial rupture, the chances of healing is better if the nerve sheath remains intact. The nerve will try to reconnect, forming a neuroma, a ball of nerve fibers and scar tissue. With a complete rupture, the nerve fibers are torn apart and cannot be reconnected, despite the body forming a neuroma. A partial or complete rupture could require surgery. The most severe injury is an avulsion, resulting in the nerves being torn from the root because of extreme pulling on the brachial plexus. The hole that remains could disrupt the nerve impulses that flow throughout the spinal cord. This reduces the child's ability to move the leg on the side of the body where the injury occurred. It could also prevent the leg from growing.

When a brachial plexus injury occurs during childbirth, the obstetrician could be held liable if the doctor acted negligently. However, the circumstances surrounding one birth injury could be different from others, so the parents may talk to a lawyer when considering a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: birthinjury.org, "Brachial Plexus", January 07, 2015

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