The brachial plexus refers to a group of nerves traveling between the shoulder and neck. The brachial plexus provides both sensory and motor innervation to the upper extremity. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is considered to be the best exam to evaluate causes of brachial plexopathy.
Plexopathy is a disorder affecting a network of nerves, blood vessels or lymph vessels. The region of nerves it affects are at the brachial or lumbosacral plexus. Symptoms include pain, loss of motor control and sensory deficits.
Because there is no ionizing radiation used in an MRI exam, Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a very popular tool in the medical community. In addition, MRI is a totally painless exam and has no known side effects.
When would I get a Brachial Plexus MRI?
Your medical provider may recommend an MRI of the brachial plexus in order evaluate:
- trauma or injury to the brachial plexus region
- upper extremity pain
- upper extremity weakness
- a loss of muscle mass, also known as muscle wasting
What Will I Experience?
MRI exams are painless. However, some patients find it challenging to remain still. Others may feel closed-in (claustrophobia) or anxious while in a conventional closed MRI scanner. The scanner can be noisy. Nervous or anxious patients may be offered a mild sedative.
A patient may also ask their medical provider to prescribe a mild sedative to take before the exam. If a mild sedative is taken, the patient will need to have someone drive them to our center and take them home once the exam is done.
It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm. It is important that you remain perfectly still while the images are being recorded, which is typically only a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position as much as possible.
You will usually be alone in the exam room during the MRI procedure. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a two-way intercom.
You will be offered earplugs or a headset to reduce the noise of the MRI, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well-lit. Some of our scanners have music you can listen to during the test.
If you have an exam that requires an injection of intravenous contrast material, it is normal to feel coolness and a flushing sensation for a minute or two following the injection. The intravenous needle may cause you some discomfort when it is inserted and once it is removed, you may experience some bruising. There is also a very small chance of irritation of your skin at the site of the IV tube insertion.
Typically, this type of MRI exam will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete.