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Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries

At NYU Langone, our orthopedic specialists are trained to identify nerve damage in the upper extremities, including injury to the brachial plexus, which is the network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the arms. Damage to these nerves can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and loss of movement in the shoulder, arm, or hand. Brachial plexus injuries may occur when the arm is forcefully stretched or pulled away from the head and neck, often as the result of a fall, car accident, sports injury, or other trauma including injury to babies during birth.

Brachial plexus injuries can involve several different nerves and vary in severity, depending on the location of the injury and extent of the nerve damage. Your doctor performs a physical examination and uses imaging and other diagnostic testing to determine the type of injury.  

Specialists at NYU Langone’s Center for Brachial Plexus Injuries identify different types of brachial plexus injuries in order to develop the most effective approach to your care.

Brachial Plexus Rupture

A brachial plexus rupture occurs when parts of the nerves are forcefully stretched or compressed, causing the nerve to tear partially or completely. This type of injury can cause weakness, pain, or loss of movement, and doctors often recommend surgery to repair it.

Brachial Plexus Avulsion

An avulsion, the most serious brachial plexus injury, occurs when the nerves are torn from the spinal cord within the cervical spine or neck region. Brachial plexus avulsions often cause debilitating pain in your arm or hand, and surgery is typically recommended to repair this type of injury.

Brachial Neuritis

This rare syndrome affects the shoulder, arm, and hand, causing symptoms such as pain, weakness, and numbness. The cause of brachial neuritis is unknown but may be related to an autoimmune response to another injury or illness. Brachial neuritis may be treated with pain medication or surgery.

Brachial Plexus Newborn Birth Injury

A baby may experience a brachial plexus injury during birth, which could affect their shoulder, elbow, and forearm function. When nerves in the upper part of a child’s brachial plexus are damaged, it is called Erb’s Palsy and can affect their arm, wrist, and hand movement. Doctors often recommend nonsurgical interventions for this kind of injury, and surgical treatments are available for more severe cases.

Our Research and Education in Brachial Plexus Injuries

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.