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Axillary Nerve Dysfunction and Palsy 2017-01-28T09:35:05-06:00

Axillary Nerve Dysfunction and Palsy

Injury to any peripheral nerve can lead to loss of strength and feeling.  An axillary nerve injury can lead to loss of motion and sensation to the shoulder.

What is an axillary nerve injury?

The axillary nerve is the primary nerve connecting the spinal cord and brain to the muscles of the shoulder.  Injury to this nerve can lead to loss of function of the deltoid muscle and loss of sensation of the skin around the shoulder.  This loss function can lead to significant limitations in everyday activities.

What causes an axillary nerve injury?

The most common cause of axillary nerve injury is secondary to trauma to the shoulder.  This trauma can include shoulder injuries from falls, shoulder dislocations, fractures of the upper arm, and direct injury.  Trauma may also occur from prior surgical procedures.  Compression of the axillary nerve from tumors, infection, and other surrounding tissues can also lead to dysfunction.  Uncommonly inflammation from systemic disorders and also lead to dysfunction.

What are the symptoms of an axillary nerve injury?

Symptoms are dependent on the severity of injury.

Common symptoms associated with an axillary nerve palsy include:

  • No feeling on outside of the shoulder
  • Weakness of the shoulder
  • Loss of shoulder motion

How are axillary nerve palsies diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will examine your shoulder and test the function and sensation to help diagnose an axillary nerve injury.

These are other diagnostic tests often used:

  • Imaging tests, such as MRI and xray
  • Tests to determine nerve function, including a nerve conduction and electromyography

What are the complications of axillary nerve dysfunction?

Severe axillary nerve injuries can lead to permanent loss of motion and sensation of the shoulder.  Prompt surgical treatment can lead to improved motion and function.  Without surgical intervention permanent disability may result.

How can axillary nerve injuries be treated?

Treatments depend on the cause of axillary nerve injury.  Some improve without surgical intervention.  Pain can also be treated with medication.  Some injuries require surgery.  Surgery included nerve transfers, nerve decompression, nerve grafting, and muscle or tendon transfers.

When should I call the health care provider?

If you have any symptoms of axillary nerve dysfunction you should call your health care provider as early diagnosis and treatment can lead to improved outcomes.

UAMS Orthopedics