Brachial plexus injuries from blunt trauma--a harbinger of vascular and thoracic injury

Ann Emerg Med. 1987 Apr;16(4):404-6. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(87)80359-1.


We reviewed the records of 59 patients who suffered brachial plexus injuries following blunt trauma between the years 1974 and 1984. The age of the patients ranged from 2 to 84 years, with a mean of 35.3 years. Forty-five were male patients. The majority of injuries (53%) were caused by motor vehicle accidents. Direct trauma was the mechanism of injury for 33 patients, traction for 18, shoulder dislocation for six, and acromioclavicular separation for two. The injuries occurred on the left side in 33 (56%); the right side in 23 (39%), and bilaterally in three (5%). Eight patients (14%) suffered complete brachial plexus palsies, and 51 (86%) incurred partial palsies. Nine patients (15.2%) presented in shock. Severe associated injuries occurred in this group of patients and included multiple rib fractures, hemopneumothorax, pulmonary contusion, head injuries, and upper extremity fractures. Subclavian artery injuries occurred in three patients, axillary artery in two patients, and an internal carotid injury in one patient. Complete resolution of the palsy occurred in 25 patients, partial resolution occurred in 17 cases, and the brachial plexus palsy remained permanent in nine. Eight patients were lost to follow-up. Brachial plexus injuries frequently occur in association with severe trauma, are usually partial palsies, and resolve partially or completely in two-thirds of cases. In addition, 10% of these patients suffered major vascular injuries and 10% incurred significant chest trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brachial Plexus / injuries*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paralysis / etiology
  • Rib Fractures / etiology
  • Subclavian Artery / injuries
  • Thoracic Injuries / etiology*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications*