Nerve plexus metastases

Ankush Bhatia MD MS (

Dr. Bhatia of University of Texas at Houston has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Rimas V Lukas MD, editor. (

Dr. Lukas of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine received honorariums from AbbVie and Novocure for speaking engagements, from Eisai for consulting work, and from Monetris as an advisory board member.

Originally released August 18, 1997; last updated April 17, 2020; expires April 17, 2023


Metastasis to the brachial plexus is a fairly common complication of breast carcinoma, lung carcinoma, and certain types of lymphoma. Metastatic tumor involving the lumbosacral plexus is an increasingly recognized complication of a number of neoplasms. It is important for neurologists to diagnose metastatic brachial plexopathies early and to differentiate them from radiation-induced plexus injury or other etiologies. In this article, the author discusses the clinical presentations, diagnostic issues, and management of patients with metastatic plexopathies.

Key points


• Carcinomas of the lung or breast are the most common sources of brachial plexus metastases, whereas lumbosacral plexus metastases most often arise from primary pelvic tumors or lymphoma.


• Local and radiating pain is the most common presenting symptom of nerve plexus metastasis, eventually followed by motor and sensory deficits.


MRI is fairly sensitive and specific in diagnosing nerve plexus metastases, and FDG-PET scanning may also be useful in some patients.


• Treatment of nerve plexus metastases usually brings about significant pain relief; motor and sensory deficits are less likely to improve.


EMG can also be informative, particularly when trying to differentiate between metastatic and radiation-induced plexopathy.

Historical note and terminology

Tumor metastasis to the brachial or lumbosacral plexus is less commonly seen compared to brain metastases. The clinical features of nerve plexus metastases were first clearly delineated in the 1970s.

The content you are trying to view is available only to logged in, current MedLink Neurology subscribers.

If you are a subscriber, please log in.

If you are a former subscriber or have registered before, please log in first and then click select a Service Plan or contact Subscriber Services. Site license users, click the Site License Acces link on the Homepage at an authorized computer.

If you have never registered before, click Learn More about MedLink Neurology  or view available Service Plans.

Find out how you can join MedLink Neurology