The nurse is assessing for brachial plexus compromise on a patient that underwent a left shoulder arthroplasty. To assess for median nerve integrity, the nurse:

Has patient pinch fingers and thumb together, notes strength when the nurse tries to pull them apart.


• The brachial plexus is a group of nerve fibers that pass from the spinal cord, through the shoulder and innervate the entire upper limb

• To assess the median nerve, the patient should touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the fifth finger and then resist as the nurse attempts to pull them apart. Having the patient grip while the nurse tries to open the gripped fingers accomplishes this test

Incorrect options:

• Spreading out the fingers while resisting pressure assesses the ulnar nerve

• Raising the arm above the head assesses the cutaneous nerve

• Touching the thumb to the palm assesses the radial nerve

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