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What long-term complications do brachial plexus injuries cause?

Florida mothers whose infants have suffered brachial plexus injuries need to know the potential long-term complications. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that begins at the bottom of the neck and extends throughout the shoulders and into the arms and hands. It consists of primary nerves called trunks and smaller nerve branches known as cords.

The long-term complications resulting from brachial plexus injuries are numerous and include reduced balance and coordination, reduced stamina and strength, discrepancies in limb length, impaired bone growth and joint dysfunction. Muscle atrophy, which is the shrinking of muscle tissue, could also result from brachial plexus injuries because of reduced muscle movement and a disruption to the nerve supply. With sufficient nerve supply, however, muscle mass may increase with exercise.

A reduced supply of nerves also has an impact on normal muscle movement, even without muscle atrophy. Brachial plexus injuries alter the movement and biomechanics of the body, limiting dexterity, range of motion, and the structure and formation of the joints in the affected limb. The result is abnormal movement, and wear patterns could develop over the years, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis. One of the most common long-term complications, osteoarthritis, often occurs in the shoulder.

Scoliosis, an abnormal spinal curvature, is a rare long-term complication that can also occur due to brachial plexus injuries. Sometimes, the condition is so severe that surgery is required. Some other long-term complications include Horner's Syndrome, partial paralysis of the diaphragm, decreased bimanual dexterity, glenohumeral dysplasia and scapular winging.

Brachial plexus injuries that occur during delivery could be the result of negligence on the part of a negligent nurse or other medical professional who facilitated the child's delivery. Through a medical malpractice suit, the parents of children with these birth injuries may be able to secure compensation to help them cope financially with the injuries' long-term complications.

Source: Birthinjury.org, "Brachial Plexus", January 07, 2015

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