The brachial plexus refers to a network of nerves. Its function is to send signals to the shoulder, arm and hand from the spinal cord.
Mayo Clinic associates difficult births with brachial plexus palsy. Infants with high birth weight, prolonged labor or breech presentation are most at risk. An infant’s shoulders may become wedged in the birth canal and can damage the upper nerves.
How to identify the symptoms of brachial plexus palsy
According to the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, brachial plexus palsy is a birth injury that can range in severity. The mildest form affects the upper part of the brachial plexus. This is common and called Erb’s Palsy. In Erb’s Palsy, it affects the shoulder and elbow. In global or total palsy, it affects all the nerves in the arm and fingers. A rarer case, known as Klumpke palsy affects only the lower part of the brachial plexus. In these babies, the wrist and hand do not function.
The main symptoms include weakness or lack of feeling in the limb. Pediatricians can diagnose the condition after birth with no special tests. The signs include arm weakness, arm posture and a lack of ability to bend the elbow. Doctors check how well a baby can move his or her arm and fingers.
How to treat brachial plexus palsy
Doctors suggest beginning therapy in the first month. Babies require a physical therapist and an exercise program. The parent must move the arm for the baby. In some cases, casting or surgery is necessary. If nerves do not recover in the first three to six months, surgery may be necessary.