Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy | Symptoms and Causes

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What are the symptoms of brachial plexus birth palsy?

When a newborn has brachial plexus birth palsy they may experience:

  • muscle weakness or paralysis in the affected arm or hand
  • decreased movement or sensation in the upper extremity

Usually, the baby is not in much pain, probably because infants’ nerves behave differently from adults’. Roughly, just 4 percent seem to experience severe pain. If a fracture accompanies the BPBP, the baby will experience some discomfort from the fracture, but not usually intense pain. And any fractures (clavicle, humerus) the baby may have will probably heal quickly — in about 10 days.

This is in contrast to an adult’s traumatic brachial plexus injury caused by accident or sports impact. In these cases, pain from brachial plexus injury is acute and disabling, as is pain from any accompanying fractures.

What causes brachial plexus birth palsy?

The causes of brachial plexus birth palsy may include:

  • large gestational size
  • breech birth
  • prolonged or difficult labor
  • vacuum- or forceps-assisted delivery
  • twin or multiple pregnancy
  • history of a prior delivery resulting in brachial plexus birth palsy

Once your child’s pediatrician has made a diagnosis, it’s safe to wait up to four weeks for a comprehensive evaluation by a pediatric orthopedist or brachial plexus specialist.

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300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000
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