Experience. Mayo Clinic is a leading center for surgery to repair brachial plexus injuries. Mayo surgeons perform well over 100 of these delicate surgeries every year.
Special expertise. Mayo Clinic surgeons use advanced microsurgical techniques (including nerve and muscle transfers) to repair damaged brachial plexus nerves, muscles and tendons.
Team approach. Orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, neurosurgeons and physical medicine specialists work together to repair damage and restore as much function as possible.
Improved treatments. Mayo Clinic doctors are researching more effective treatments for people with brachial plexus injuries.
Although some brachial plexus injuries are caused by tumors, compression and irradiation, the main causes of most injuries are trauma during childbirth and trauma due to an accident.
Obstetric brachial plexus injury
The most common pattern of brachial plexus injury to the baby during a difficult childbirth is called Erb's palsy, and it affects shoulder motion and elbow flexion. In more serious cases, obstetric brachial plexus injury can affect the baby's entire arm (called global palsy).
In most babies with Erb's palsy, the brachial plexus injury heals without treatment, but about 10 percent of children will eventually need surgery. If the injury doesn't heal on its own in the first month, the baby should be evaluated at a center specializing in treating brachial plexus injuries.
If surgery is needed, Mayo specialists have found best results from performing surgery four to six months after birth, before the nerve damage becomes permanent.
Brachial plexus injury due to accident
A brachial plexus injury can also occur as a result of an accident, such as a motorcycle crash, sports injury or fall. The injury is classified according to severity:
- Stretched nerve — may recover without surgery
- Ruptured nerve — nerve in the neck or shoulder which has torn completely
- Avulsed nerve — nerve that has been pulled out completely from the spinal cord
Some people with stretch injuries due to accidents recover independently, but others require surgery if function isn't recovered within three to six months.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are ranked high performing for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics.
Mayo Clinic: Answers you can trust
At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.
Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.
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What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart
Feb. 24, 2011
- Brachial plexus injury (Erb's palsy). American Society for Surgery of the Hand. http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/BrachialPlexus.aspx. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.
- Burners and stingers. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=226&topcategory=Shoulder. Accessed Nov 22, 2010.
- NINDS brachial plexus information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brachial_plexus/brachial_plexus.htm. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.
- Erb's palsy (brachial plexus birth injury). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=314&topcategory=Shoulder. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.
- Brombert MB. Brachial plexus syndromes. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.
- Sulaiman OAR, et al. Nerve transfer surgery for adult brachial plexus injury: A 10-year experience at Louisiana State University. Neurosurgery. 2009;65:A55.
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- Nerve injuries. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00016. Accessed Nov. 23, 2010.
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