An injury to the brachial plexus can cause pain referred to the shoulder and can produce weakness and atrophy in the muscles of the shoulder within weeks of injury. Radiographic evaluation of the cervical spine should be included in the emergency department evaluation of patients with suspected brachial plexus injury or involvement.
Brachial plexus neuritis is uncommon but can be very painful. It is usually determined to be of viral origin. The inflammation of the brachial plexus can lead to weakness and atrophy of the muscles of the shoulder complex within weeks following the onset of pain. Cervical spine radiographs should be included in the workup. Brachial plexus neuritis is usually self-limiting. Referral to a neurologist should be arranged if a patient is suspected of having this disorder.
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