If you’re a parent, you know that there could be nothing more heart wrenching than knowing that you child sustained a preventable injury during birth. One type of birth injury that a newborn may sustain is a brachial plexus injury. The injury can cause long-term complications in severe cases.
Types of Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries
The brachial plexus is the collection of nerves concentrated around the shoulder. Trauma to the brachial plexus is an umbrella term used to describe nerve damage to the area. According to the Johns Hopkins Neurology and Neurosurgery website, there are six main types of brachial plexus nerve injuries.
- Avulsions (nerve pulled from spinal cord – no chance of recovery)
- Ruptures (nerve stretched and torn but not at the spinal cord)
- Neurapraxia (nerve gently stretched or compressed but not torn – excellent prognosis)
- Axonotemesis (axons severed – prognosis is moderate)
- Neurotemesis (entire nerve divided – prognosis is very poor)
- Neuroma (tumor growing from divided axons that fail to regenerate – prognosis depends on what percentage of axons regenerate)
Obstetric brachial plexus refers to any injury to the newborn’s brachial plexus nerves during delivery. The injury to the nerve group can cause Erb’s palsy, weakness, or paralysis to the upper and lower arm, or Klumpke’s palsy, an injury that results in weakness or loss of function to the wrist and hand.
Work with Snyder & Wenner to collect evidence establishing the type and severity of injury your child suffered, as well as the prognosis.
What Causes Obstetric Brachial Plexus Injuries?
Brachial plexus injuries in newborns may occur during the birthing process when a newborn gets stuck in the birthing canal. When this happens—the head has emerged, but the shoulders are stuck—it is known as shoulder dystocia. The chances of shoulder dystocia are higher for larger-than-average newborns or when the delivery is breech.
When shoulder dystocia occurs, the physician overseeing the birth must take action to alleviate the condition. But in some cases, this can cause brachial plexus injuries. For example, pulling on the infant’s shoulders, putting pressure on the baby’s arms, or pulling the infant’s head and neck to the side to allow the shoulders to pass through the birthing canal can cause brachial plexus injuries.
If the baby is too large to deliver vaginally safely, performing a cesarean section may reduce the risk of a brachial plexus injury occurring. However, brachial plexus injuries have been reported in cesarean sections, too, as have other complications.
Who’s Liable for Your Baby’s Brachial Plexus Injury?
Some obstetric brachial plexus injuries could have been avoided but for the improper actions or decisions of the physician responsible for delivering your baby. For example, using undue force to deliver the child or failing to take precautionary measures like ordering a cesarean section if the baby is too large may be examples of negligence that could cause or contribute to the injury.
If your baby’s brachial plexus injury was preventable and would not have occurred but for a healthcare provider’s negligent actions, then the doctor may be liable.
Treatment and Recovery for Brachial Plexus Injuries
The symptoms of a brachial plexus injury are a lack of movement of the upper or lower arm, absence of the Moro reflex on the affected side, affected arm bent and held at the newborn’s side, and decreased grip strength on the affected side, according to MedlinePlus.
Treatment options for a brachial plexus injury depend upon both the type and severity of the injury. In some cases, gentle massaging of the affected area and range-of-motion exercises will restore function to the arm in a relatively short period of time. In other cases, the infant may require surgery. Sometimes, permanent and total loss of function of the arm occurs.
The severity and effects of the injury will affect recovery of damages if you’re pursuing a birth injury claim. At Snyder & Wenner, we help you organize your claim and establish the damages to which you are entitled.
Take Legal Action Today – Consult the Lawyers at Snyder & Wenner
For more than 30 years, the attorneys at Snyder & Wenner, P.C. have represented the families of children who have innocently endured brachial plexus injuries. Because we are nationally respected for our experience and our verdicts/settlements, we are routinely asked to consult on cases for other attorneys throughout the country. We would be honored to help your family fight to obtain justice on behalf of your child. Please contact us today at 602-224-0005 for a free consultation.