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Conditions We Treat: Pediatric Brachial Plexus Injuries

Injuries to the brachial plexus can affect your child’s shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. Whether the problem is caused by trauma, inflammation or other cause, Johns Hopkins’ pediatric neurosurgeons can provide guidance and, if necessary, expert surgical treatment to restore optimal function.

Brachial Plexus Injury in Children: Why Choose Johns Hopkins?

an illustration of the brachial plexus
  • Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeons are uniquely skilled in diagnosing and treating complex brachial plexus injuries in infants and children.
  • Our experts’ years of experience in diagnosing brachial plexus injuries can mean more timely treatment for children with this disorder. Our team works with colleagues in pediatric neurology, orthopaedics, rehabilitation and occupational therapy to help your child regain as much function as possible.
  • Throughout the long course of recovery, you and your child will benefit from coordinated follow-up and regular assessment of healing.
  • If surgery is recommended for your child’s brachial plexus injury, you will find an optimal environment for healing at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, which provides compassionate and comprehensive care to support the entire family as well as the individual child.
 
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Brachial Plexus Injury in Children: Treatments

Brachial plexus injuries vary in severity. If your child has a mild brachial plexus injury, the problem may resolve on its own over the course of three to four months. An expert’s proper diagnosis is essential to see if spontaneous recovery is possible

In more severe cases, such as avulsion (a pulling or tearing of the nerves in the brachial plexus) surgery on the damaged nerves may be necessary. This is a complex procedure, requiring an experienced specialist. Additional procedures to restore your child’s arm and shoulder function may be necessary, including:

  • Neurolysis: releasing one or more nerves from inflamed, scarred or damaged tissue
  • Neurotization (nerve transfer): moving a less important nerve to revitalize a more important nerve that has been damaged
  • Transfer of tendons or free muscles in the arm or shoulder.

Brachial plexus injuries take a long time to recover from, since nerves grow slowly. The process starts at the shoulder and gradually extends down the arm to the hand. It may be several months before you see the first signs of recovery in your child.

Complete recovery can take years, depending on the extent of the injury. Physical therapy is an essential part of the process, strengthening muscles and maintaining flexibility as the area heals.

Recovery progresses from the muscles of the shoulder, to those of the arm, and finally the hand. Physical therapy is essential to strengthen recovering muscles and maintain flexibility of joints. If your child’s nerves were pulled away from the spinal cord at their roots, lingering pain may need to be addressed with further interventions.

Once the nerves have grown back and the muscles have regained their strength, the neurosurgeon can determine the extent of your child’s recovery. You can be assured that the Johns Hopkins team will continue to follow up with you and monitor your child for optimal healing. 

Pediatric Brachial Plexus Injury Specialists

Our experts work closely together, along with experts in plastic surgery of the skull and face to achieve the best results possible. Our team works with you so that you understand your child’s condition and each step of the treatment plan, from your initial visit through longer term follow-up.

Dr. Allan Belzbert, neurosurgeonAllan Belzberg, M.D., neurosurgeon and director of the Peripheral Nerve Surgery Center

Neurosurgeons

Edward Ahn, M.D.
Allan Belzberg, M.D.
Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Mari Groves, M.D.
Eric M. Jackson, M.D.
Shenandoah Robinson, M.D.

Advanced Practitioners

Stephanie Berry, P.A.-C
Judy Gates, P.A.-C.
Kelly Hartnett, P.A.-C.
Heather Kerber, P.A.-C.

 

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Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337

 

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