Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injuries affect the network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. Symptoms include paralysis and loss of feeling in the affected arm and hand. These debilitating injuries are estimated to occur in up to 5% of adults who experience severe trauma like motor vehicle accidents. Many people recover well from minor brachial plexus injuries, recovering 90 - 100% of their normal limb function. However, in severe cases, the nerves may not heal properly without treatment, resulting in permanent damage. This can lead to:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation
  • Chronic pain
  • Increased risk of secondary injuries

Treatments for Brachial Plexus Injuries

The goal of treatment is to help regenerate damaged nerves and restore muscle control and sensation in the arm and hand. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of meaningful recovery.

Non-Surgical Treatments



Prescription medications like gabapentin or NSAIDs to manage neuropathic pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy

Gentle stretches and exercises guided by a therapist to maintain range of motion and prevent secondary injuries while nerves heal.


Custom splints worn to support and protect paralyzed or weakened limbs in proper position for nerve regeneration.

Surgical Treatments


Nerve Repair Surgery

Nerves are surgically reconnected using tiny sutures and grafts to bridge damaged areas and guide nerve regrowth.

Nerve Transfer Surgery

Healthy donor nerves are cut and connected to more crucial paralyzed nerves to restore intent to move and function.

 Tendon Transfer Surgery

The tendons of still-working muscles are transferred to paralyzed tendons to mechanically enable movement despite nerve damage.


Why Patients Trust the Center for Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery

Our nerve, tendon and reconstructive surgeons have completed elite specialty training far beyond general orthopedics, mastering techniques specially designed for the intricate anatomy of the hands and arms. They can reattach individual nerve fibers thinner than a human hair using specialized operating microscopes and advanced technologies. Patients put their trust in us not just because of our first-class outpatient surgical facilities and patient-centered post-op rehabilitation, but because of the immense dedication it takes to capably perform such visually and technically demanding procedures to maximize healing. Our standard of surgical care has no equal when it comes to restoring confidence, independence and comfort.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience trauma like a serious fall or car accident and notice sudden loss of feeling, weakness, or paralysis in your arm, shoulder or hand, it is important to seek medical attention. While some nerve damage may heal on its own, waiting too long could mean missing the window of opportunity for treatments with the highest chances for full recovery. Symptoms persisting longer than a few days or any signs of progressive numbness, pain, or inability to lift or flex your arm or hand properly warrant prompt evaluation. 

Real people. Real results.

Meet Louise,

Who underwent neck, shoulder, and arm surgery for brachial plexus nerve damage.

After enduring numerous unsuccessful surgeries and facing severe nerve damage, Louise sought out Dr. Elkwood, who offered a glimmer of hope with a comprehensive plan for reconstruction. Undergoing seven procedures in one surgery, the patient experienced a remarkable improvement, praising Dr. Elkwood's compassionate approach and the exceptional care provided by the entire medical team.


What are some common causes of brachial plexus injuries besides car accidents?

Other common causes are sports injuries, falls from significant heights, and injuries from bicycle or motorcycle crashes. Violent motions that severely stretch or tear the brachial plexus nerves are often to blame.

How is a brachial plexus injury diagnosed?

Brachial plexus injuries are diagnosed through a combination of the patient’s medical history, a focused physical examination checking for loss of motion and reflexes, sensory tests that map numbness in the skin, muscle and nerve electrical signaling tests, and imaging studies like MRI and ultrasound that can reveal nerve damage or swelling.

What kind of long-term impacts can these injuries have if not properly treated?

Without treatment, nerve damage can be permanent, leading to lifelong disability, pain, and loss of function. Secondary injuries to the joints, muscles, or bones in the arm and hand can also develop over time without nerve signals and movement.

How do I know if my injury requires surgery or if therapy is enough?
Your physician will examine the type of nerve damage through electrical tests and imaging. If complete nerve tears or irrecoverable injuries are found, surgery is usually the best option for recovery. Our specialists can guide you on necessary procedures.
After treatment, how long does it take to regain movement and sensation?
Timeframes vary dramatically person-to-person. With surgery, some see gradual improvements after a few months. Complete recovery can take over a year. Non-surgical cases may heal in weeks if damage is minor. Physical therapy helps maximize outcomes.
Can nerve damage from these injuries get progressively worse over time if not treated?
Typically nerve conditions will plateau after the initial injury, but delays in surgery can limit the potential for regeneration. Without proper nerve signals, muscles begin to atrophy. Early treatment provides more reinnervation targets.
HUES Surgeons

Don’t face nerve damage alone. We are here to help you move forward.