Erb-Duchenne and Dejerine-Klumpke Palsies
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Brachial plexus injuries are caused by damage to those nerves. Erb-Duchenne (Erb's) palsy refers to paralysis of the upper brachial plexus. Dejerine-Klumpke (Klumpke's) palsy refers to paralysis of the lower brachial plexus. Although injuries can occur at any time, many brachial plexus injuries happen when a baby's shoulders become impacted during delivery and the brachial plexus nerves stretch or tear. There are four types of brachial plexus injuries: avulsion, the most severe type, in which the nerve is torn from the spine; rupture, in which the nerve is torn but not at the spinal attachment; neuroma, in which the nerve has torn and healed but scar tissue puts pressure on the injured nerve and prevents it from conducting signals to the muscles; and neuropraxia or stretch, in which the nerve has been damaged but not torn. Neuropraxia is the most common type of brachial plexus injury. Symptoms of brachial plexus injury may include a limp or paralyzed arm; lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist; and lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand.
Some brachial plexus injuries may heal without treatment. Many children who are injured during birth improve or recover by 3 to 4 months of age. Treatment for brachial plexus injuries includes physical therapy and, in some cases, surgery.
The site and type of brachial plexus injury determines the prognosis. For avulsion and rupture injuries, there is no potential for recovery unless surgical reconnection is made in a timely manner. The potential for recovery varies for neuroma and neuropraxia injuries. Most individuals with neuropraxia injuries recover spontaneously with a 90-100 percent return of function.
The NINDS conducts and supports research on injuries to the nervous system such as brachial plexus injuries. Much of this research is aimed at finding ways to prevent and treat these disorders.
United Brachial Plexus Network
Non-profit organization devoted to providing information, support and leadership for families and those concerned with brachial plexus injuries and their prevention worldwide.
1610 Kent Street
Kent, OH 44240
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
8400 Corporate Drive
Landover, MD 20785
March of Dimes
Works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality through programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy.
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: White Plains
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810