To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your symptoms and conduct a physical examination.
To help diagnose the extent and severity of a brachial plexus injury, you may have one or more of the following tests:
May. 01, 2014
- Electromyography (EMG). During an EMG, your doctor inserts a needle electrode through your skin into various muscles. The test evaluates the electrical activity of your muscles when they contract and when they're at rest. You may feel a little pain when the electrodes are inserted, but most people can complete the test without much discomfort.
- Nerve conduction studies. These tests are usually performed as part of the EMG, and measure the speed of conduction in your nerve when a small current passes through the nerve. This provides information about how well the nerve is functioning.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed views of your body in multiple planes. It often can show the extent of the damage caused by a brachial plexus injury.
This test may be used to determine if a nerve has been severed completely from your spinal cord. This test can also be used to assess the status of arteries that are important for the limb or for reconstruction of it.
New methods of high resolution MRI, known as magnetic resonance neurography, may be used.
Computerized tomography (CT) myelography. In CT myelography, a computerized tomography (CT) scan is conducted that uses a series of X-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of your body.
CT myelography uses a contrast material, injected during a spinal tap, to produce a detailed picture of your spinal cord and nerve roots during a CT scan. This test is sometimes performed when MRIs don't provide adequate information.
- NINDS brachial plexus injuries information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brachial_plexus/brachial_plexus.htm. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.
- Erb's palsy (brachial plexus birth palsy). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00077. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.
- Brachial plexus. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/BrachialPlexus.aspx. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.
- Bromberg MB. Brachial plexus syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.
- Burners and stingers. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00027. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Sept. 5, 2013.
- Giuffre JL, et al. Current concepts of the treatment of adult brachial plexus injuries. The Journal of Hand Surgery. 2010;35:678.
- Yang LJ, et al. A systematic review of nerve transfer and nerve repair for the treatment of adult upper brachial plexus injury. Neurosurgery. 2012;71:417.
- Neuropathic pain. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/pain/neuropathic_pain.html?qt=neuropathic%20pain&alt=sh. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Pain: hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Cook AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 4, 2013.
- Spinner RJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 26, 2013.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 2, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.