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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Shoulder dystocia can cause injuries to the brachial plexus of an infant, which physicians must immediately treat to prevent more serious injuries or the onset of symptoms that lead to death. Some brachial plexus palsy injuries recover simply with the passage of time, while other injuries related to brachial plexus distress require invasive surgery. Time can heal brachial plexus wounds, but the time required can run from a few weeks to several months. Surgery is often the best treatment option.

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Examination Options

Skilled physicians who have considerable experience diagnosing and treating brachial plexus injuries first perform one or more of the examination options that confirm the presence of injuries to the brachial plexus. The goal of the examinations is to reveal the strength of arm and hand muscles, as well as determine the sensitivity to touch a patient feels in the arms and hands. Sometimes, doctors can determine the extent of the injury by simply observing a patient. However, an examination such as CT or an MRI scan bolsters the accuracy of an initial diagnosis. The examination that gauges electrical nerve activity called an Electromyogram (EMG) also helps physicians confirm the presence of brachial plexus palsy.


Elk & Elk

The surgery performed to strengthen the nerves that run through the brachial plexus typically takes place about six months after an infant receives the injury. Health care professionals wait as long as possible for the injury to heal on its own, before taking measures to repair the injury via surgical techniques. Doctors perform one of three types of surgeries for brachial plexus palsy treatment.

Grafting of Nerves

Surgeons use this procedure to remove the damaged section or sections of the brachial plexus and then replace the damaged section with functional nerves that come from other parts of the body. The goal of the procedure is to restore arm strength and function immediately to prevent further damage caused by a brachial plexus injury.

Transferring of Nerves

Different than nerve grafting, the transferring of nerves involves the removal of displaced nerve roots from the spinal cord. Surgeons remove a nerve that is not as important to the function of the spinal cord and connects the nerve to another nerve that is has become detached from the spinal cord. Some surgeons have the skills to perform both a nerve graft and a nerve transfer simultaneously. Since nerve tissues grow about an inch per month, the benefits of performing either a nerve graft or transfer take several years to develop.

Transferring Muscle

The most invasive surgery performed to treat this condition is to remove a muscle from a part of the body that you can do without and reconnect the nerves and blood vessels that run through the brachial plexus. Surgeons typically search for healthy nerves and blood vessels in one of the thighs to perform the surgery.

Recovery from this treatment requires you to keep the muscles active to prevent the surrounding joints from stiffening to the point of causing intense pain. Think about what happens to a door hinge that rusts due to prolonged inactivity. Your physicians will most likely implement a physical therapy plan that promotes nerve rejuvenation in the joints and muscles that deteriorated to cause this condition. Many physicians also prescribe medications that reduce the debilitating pain of the incessant burning and/or substantial crushing feeling of nerve damage.