With curiosity and joy, children do what children do. They crawl across the floor. Throw a ball. Color a picture. Or type on a computer keyboard. But when children suffer a brachial plexus injury, they may lose their ability to perform these and many other common activities. They may have trouble moving one of their shoulders, arms or hands.

Just like adults, children can suffer injuries or compression to their nerves anywhere in their body, from their arms to legs. This can lead to weakness, numbness or even pain.

At Phoenix Children’s, we offer comprehensive evaluations and state-of-the-art care for children with brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries. We treat newborns, older babies and children of all ages.

What is the Brachial Plexus?

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located in the base of the neck behind the collarbone. These nerves cross the upper chest to the armpit and extend into the arms and hand. There is a brachial plexus on each side of the body. A sudden injury to the brachial plexus can reduce the movement, strength and sensation in your child’s arm, hand and fingers. Usually, a brachial plexus injury involves only one side of the body.

How Do Nerve Injuries Impact Your Child?

The brachial plexus is part of the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nerves branch off the brain and spinal cord, sending messages throughout the body. They signal muscle movement, heartbeat, sensation and other body functions. An injury to the nerve interferes with those signals. While brachial plexus injuries cause loss of function in the arm and hand, other peripheral nerve injuries may cause problems in other parts of the body, such as balance and walking issues.

How Do Brachial Plexus Injuries Happen?

Injuries to the brachial plexus and peripheral nerves occur when the nerves are stretched, compressed, damaged or torn – either during a baby’s birth or during a traumatic accident later in life.

Some babies suffer peripheral nerve injuries during the birth and delivery process. Nerve issues from childbirth are the type pediatric neurosurgeons see most frequently. The baby’s brachial plexus, the nerves in the base of the neck, can be damaged when:

  • The baby’s head and neck are stretched toward one side as the shoulders pass through the birth canal.
  • The baby’s shoulders are stretched during a head-first delivery.
  • Excessive pressure is placed on the baby’s raised arms during a feet-first (breech) delivery.

Children also suffer brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries during falls, sports injuries or traumatic accidents, often involving all-terrain vehicles, bikes, cars or motorcycles. The nerve fibers of the brachial plexus are stretched or torn when the child’s shoulder is pressed down forcefully and the head is pushed up and away from the shoulder.

Some children suffer peripheral nerve damage when the nerves are chronically compressed for numerous reasons, such as what happens when they have carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome.

What Are the Signs of a Brachial Plexus Injury?

Your child’s arm may appear limp or paralyzed. You also may notice other issues with your child’s shoulder, arm or hand, such as:

  • Loss of movement and muscle control
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Numbness, loss of feeling and sensation
  • Trouble sensing temperature changes or pain to the touch

How Can Our Comprehensive Approach Help Your Child?

Rest assured you’ve come to the right place. We’re called the Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Clinic at Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s. Our team of experts will work together to make sure your child gets the very best care for brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries. Our pediatric neurologists, nerve surgeons, and occupational and physical therapists will carefully evaluate your child and create a personalized care plan.

Our goal is to help restore your child’s ability to move and function as fully as possible, so they can enjoy being a kid.