Brachial plexus injury: living with uncertainty

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Purpose: A traumatic brachial plexus injury (BPI) has life-changing consequences for patients and their families. Despite advancements in treatments final outcome is unpredictable depending on factors including time to treatment, injury severity, neural regeneration, and available interventions. The final outcome may not be seen for up to four years. This study aimed to explore the impact of uncertainty on people with a traumatic BPI.

Methods: Secondary qualitative analysis was conducted on data from a study exploring outcomes important to patients with a traumatic BPI. Data from semi-structured interviews with adult traumatic BPI patients (n = 13) were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Results: Three major themes were identified in the qualitative data: (i) “I don’t know what happened to me,” focused on uncertainty in diagnosis. (ii) “I went to work one day… and then it all changed” centered around uncertainty in the future. (iii) Coping with uncertainty.

Conclusion: The results illustrate that people with a traumatic BPI face uncertainty regarding diagnosis, prognosis, and surrounding their roles in the future. Individuals respond to uncertainty in different ways and this needs to be understood by health care professionals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Early online date18 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2022


  • Qualitative
  • adult
  • brachial plexopathy
  • interview study
  • lived experience
  • psychosocial
  • quality of life
  • trauma

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