The brachial plexus is a group of interlinked nerves that runs from the thoracic and cervical areas of the spinal chord. Its purpose is to supply the upper limbs with sensation and movement.
When the nerves are “torn”, which is caused by a sudden pull being exerted on the limb, this is known as brachial plexus avulsion. The injury is normally caused by accidents, falling from a height and being stepped on. It can also be caused by a fracture.
This depends a lot on how serious the avulsion is. You will see one or several of the following clinical signs:
The vet will base a diagnosis of brachial plexus avulsion on the animal’s clinical history (falls, accidents,...), visible clinical signs and electrophysiological examinations. In serious cases where it is possible that the spinal cord has also been damaged, an RMI scan or CAT scan may be necessary.
There are two types of treatment, depending on the animal’s condition.
This can be used in some mild cases for partial avulsions. A tendon transfer or carpal arthrodesis (immobilisation of the carpus) can be performed.
If sensation is present in the limb, evolution is usually favourable. If sensation is absent, the evolution is usually unfavourable. In some cases, the limb needs to be amputated in order to avoid injuries and self-mutilation or the use of rigid splints.