Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI)

Brachial plexus is a network of nerves that originates from the spinal cord and branches off to give rise to most of the nerves that control movement and sensation in the upper limbs. 

Brachial plexus injury (BPI) is a term for a variety of conditions that may impair function of the brachial plexus. This may result in pain, loss of sensation, muscle weakness of some or all of the muscles in the shoulder, and upper limb.  The degree of functional impairment and potential for recovery depend on the mechanism, type, and complexity of the brachial plexus injury.  Majority of brachial plexus injuries are caused by trauma, especially auto or motorcycle accidents, sports injuries as well as inflammatory processes (brachial plexitis) and hereditary factors. Tumors, compression and irradiation can also affect the brachial plexus.

Diagnosing Brachial Plexus

Multiple modalities are utilized to diagnose a brachial plexus injury, including clinical examination, electrodiagnostic studies (EMG, NCV), and imaging studies (MRI, CT). Used in combination, these modalities provide valuable insights into the elements of the brachial plexus that have been injured and the severity and type of the injury as well as potential for spontaneous recovery. A comprehensive and detailed clinical evaluation of brachial plexus injuries is provided by a combined neurology and neurosurgery Peripheral Nerve clinic.

Brachial Plexus Treatments

Treatment options depend on the type and severity of injury. Mild injuries can heal spontaneously.  Most of the serious injuries will require surgery to repair injured nerves. Our neurosurgeon, Dr. Nicholas Boulis, MD, PhD, specializes in surgical treatment of brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries.  A variety of treatment options are offered by the program, including the repair of damaged nerves using nerve grafts and nerve transfers and removal of tumors or compression from nerves.  Intraoperative recordings (nerve action potentials, compound nerve action potentials) are used to test nerves integrity.

After a treatment, Emory physicians monitor patients for functional recovery.  Physical therapy is essential to strengthening recovering muscles and maintaining flexibility of joints.

About the Peripheral Nerve Clinic

The Peripheral Nerve Clinic at Emory University is a combined neurosurgery and neurology multidisciplinary clinic that provides expertise in most nerve disorders, including peripheral nerve or brachial, lumbosacral plexus injuries, nerve sheath tumors, neurofibromatosis, compressive, acquired and inherited neuropathies as well as pain syndromes.  Peripheral nerve clinic combines advanced surgical and therapeutic approaches, with the latest diagnostic imaging and physiology.  The clinic is committed to offering the highest quality care to patients with peripheral nerve diseases by providing the same day electrophysiological (electromyography, nerve conduction studies) evaluation and neurological and neurosurgical consults. For appointments call 404-778- 5770.

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