What are brachial plexus injuries?

The spinal cord consists of a complete network of nerves, including the brachial plexus. It is responsible for sending signals from the spinal cord to different areas of the upper body, such as the hands, arms, and shoulders.

As explained by the Mayo Clinic, brachial plexus injuries affect the function of these body parts, and the severity of the effects depends on the severity of the injuries. While they can result from contact sports or car accidents, babies can also experience them during the delivery process.

Why do brachial plexus injuries happen during birth?

In general terms, these injuries result from overextension of the neck up and away from the shoulders, while the shoulders get pulled downward. During birth, problems can arise when the baby’s shoulders become stuck within the birth canal. Birth injuries usually result from longer than normal labor, higher than average birth weight, or breech birth, meaning the baby’s head faces up, while their legs face down.

How to treat these injuries

Treatment depends on the severity of the injuries. Minor cases will usually heal on their own. In this instance, mild massage and stretching keep joints and muscles pliable while your infant’s injury heals. More serious injuries may require surgical intervention to relieve pain and stiffness.

Nerve grafts use tissues from other parts of the body to replace damaged brachial plexus nerves. This treatment is often recommended for torn nerve tissues, as opposed to overextended ones. Doctors can also perform nerve transfers, which entail rerouting a functioning spinal cord nerve to the damaged area to replace a nerve that no longer functions.

If you have concerns about difficulty during childbirth, share them with your obstetrician. They can answer questions and address concerns, as well as explore other birthing options, such as cesarean sections if you anticipate a difficult birth.

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