Brachial Plexopathy – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is brachial plexopathy?
Brachial plexopathy is a form of peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when brachial plexus is damaged due to injury or some other cause. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Damage to these nerves results in pain, decreased movement, or decreased sensation in the arm and shoulder.
What causes brachial plexopathy?
Brachial plexopathy is usually caused by direct injury to a nerve in the brachial plexus. It can also be caused by stretching injuries, pressure from tumors in the area (such as lung tumors), or damage that results from radiation therapy.
The following things are also associated with brachial plexopathy:
- Birth defects that put pressure on the neck area
- Exposure to toxins, chemicals, or drugs
- General anesthesia, used during surgery
- Inflammatory conditions, such as those due to a virus or immune system problem
What are the symptoms of brachial plexopathy?
The following are the common symptoms:
- Numbness of the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Shoulder pain
- Tingling, burning, pain, or abnormal sensations (location depends on the area injured)
- Weakness of the shoulder, arm, hand, or wrist
How is brachial plexopathy diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam of the affected area and review the symptoms. The examination of the affected arm, hand, and wrist can reveal a problem with the nerves of the brachial plexus. The doctor may find the following signs of brachial plexopathy:
- Deformity of the arm or hand
- Difficulty moving the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers
- Diminished arm reflexes
- Wasting of the muscles
- Weakness of hand flexing
The doctor may do some of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- Electromyography (EMG) to check the nerves that control the muscles
- Nerve conduction to check how fast electrical signals move through a nerve
- MRI of the head, neck, and shoulder
- Chest x-ray
- Blood tests
How is brachial plexopathy treated?
Sometimes, treatment is not needed, as the problem gets better on its own. Generally, treatment is aimed at addressing the underlying cause to allow the person to use the hand and arm as much as possible.
The doctor may recommend the following treatments:
- Medicines to control pain
- Physical therapy to help maintain muscle strength.
- Braces, splints, or other devices to help you use your arm
- Nerve block, in which medicine is injected into the area near the nerves to reduce pain
- Surgery to repair the nerves or remove something pressing on the nerves
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.