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What is it?

As a result of trauma (a bodily injury or wound caused by an external force), inflammation, or tumours to the nerves which originate near the neck and shoulder. Stretching or tears of the nerves at their spinal origin (where they exit the spinal column) are most commonly seen during high speed vehicle accidents, particularly involving motorcyclists, falls from heights but also at birth, when the baby’s shoulder gets pulled away from the head.


Marked weakness of the affected extremity (flail arm), pain in the neck and shoulder, and sensory deficit (reduced feeling) are normally seen. Occasionally, reduced pulses are present due to vascular injury.


• Flail arm splints are normally used to support and protect the elbow and wrist, and occasionally the wrist if the patient’s involvement is more severe, and to provide more function to the affected limb.

• Other patient’s with less involvement prefer to use shoulder slings or immobilizers to prevent the shoulder from subluxing (partially dislocating).