Acute brachial plexopathy occurs from trauma, acute thoracic outlet syndrome, and acute brachial neuropathy. Acute thoracic outlet syndrome is usually related to trauma. Here, the outlet between the ribs and clavicle is narrowed due to muscle spasms. This narrowing leads to compression of the brachial plexus. Acute neuropathy of the brachial plexus may occur after viral disorders. Direct damage to the brachial plexus may occur from stretch injuries or blunt or penetrating trauma. All of these disorders produce varying degrees of pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the arm.
Causes of Brachial Plexopathy
Acute thoracic outlet syndrome is caused by cervical muscle spasms that elevate the first rib. This leads to narrowing of the costoclavicular outlet. Acute brachial neuropathy occurs from unknown causes. It is thought possibly to have an autoimmune bases, as it is associated with viral illness, arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, Polyarteritis nodosa, surgery, trauma and immunizations. Trauma can produce stretching, compression or laceration of the nerves of the brachial plexus.
Signs and Symptoms of Brachial Plexopathy
Acute thoracic outlet syndrome often occurs after whiplash injury, falls or heavy lifting. Neck pain and stiffness occurs. Pain radiates into the arm or hand, particularly the ring and small fingers. Lifting the arm to do activities such as brushing the hair increases the symptoms. There may be weakness in the hand and numbness in the ring and small fingers. Acute brachial neuropathy develops shoulder and arm pain. The pain may be much worse at night or with arm movements. About one third of people who develop this disorder will develop bilateral symptoms. Weakness of the shoulder and arm often progress over several weeks. Atrophy and sensory loss in a similar distribution occurs. The disorder is more common in men. Trauma may stretch the brachial plexus leading to weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain. There is often burning pain in the arm. Penetrating trauma can lead to varying degrees of weakness or numbness as well as damage to the axillary artery or vein.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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