A brachial plexus injury can be a debilitating birth injury that may take away your child’s ability to move his or her hands, arms, or shoulders. If you believe that your child suffers from this condition, it is essential to get it diagnosed as soon as possible. From a treatment perspective, the sooner it is diagnosed, the better. Your doctor will also look at the severity of the injury to determine the best route for treatment.
How Does the Doctor Test for This?
To test for this condition, the doctor might employ a variety of testing methods to determine if the child has this condition. Some of the tests that he might perform include:
- Nerve conduction studies (NCS)
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography myelography (CTM)
How the Condition is Treated
You have a couple of different ways that doctors have chosen to treat this condition, but the treatment will largely depend on the brachial plexus diagnosis. With the milder cases, the doctor may choose not to treat it at all because it will heal on its own. Nerves that were only stretched may heal on their own. However, there are cases where it will not heal on its own. In those situations, the doctor will recommend surgery where a nerve graft is performed to repair the damaged brachial plexus nerves. Surgery normally happens three to six months after the birth disorder because surgeries performed after this timeframe, have a lower success rate. Nerve tissue can be slow-growing and it may take several years before the full benefits from the surgery are observed.
Controlling the Pain
When injury to the brachial plexus happens closer to the spinal cord, the pain levels tend to be significantly higher. Your child may feel a constant burning sensation or a crushing feeling. In some cases, the pain does not subside even with pain medication. In these situations, the doctor may choose to perform a surgical procedure, in an attempt to reduce the level of pain.
Getting Ready for the Appointment
When you schedule a doctor appointment for a brachial plexus injury evaluation, it is important to ask how you should prepare for the appointment. For example, in some situations, the doctor may request that your child stop taking certain medications because of how they affect the diagnosis. Typically, this will only be for a few days before the appointment. Before the appointment, write down your child’s symptoms, so that you remember everything that you want to discuss. In addition, you may want to create a list of your child’s medications. Finally, do not be afraid to ask the doctor questions because this will give you a better idea of what to expect.
Brachial plexus injuries have a lot of similarities to cerebral palsy in that they can also cause paralysis. Typically, the prognosis for a brachial plexus injury is more favorable, and most children will have resolution of the injury.