Brachial plexus birth injuries occur when the bundle of nerves located between the neck and shoulder is damaged during delivery. These are preventable injuries which are caused by pushing or pulling on a baby whose shoulder is wedged behind the mother’s pubic bone, a condition called Shoulder Dystocia.
Types of brachial plexus injuries
- Avulsion – the nerve is torn away from the spinal cord
- Rupture – the nerve is torn, but not from where it attaches to the spinal cord
- Neuropraxia – the nerve is stretched but not torn
- Neuroma – scar tissue forms and puts pressure on the nerve, often a result of stretch injuries
Results of brachial plexus injuries
- Erb’s Palsy – damage to the upper brachial plexus, affects use of shoulder and elbow
- Klumpke’s Palsy – damage to the lower brachial plexus, affects use of the wrist and hand
- Horner’s Syndrome – damage to facial nerves, affects eyelids and pupil dilation
- Complete Palsy – damage to all of the nerves in the brachial plexus
During pregnancy your doctor should be watching for the risk factors associated with shoulder dystocia, so that he or she can take the proper preventative measures against brachial plexus injuries. These risk factors include:
- Maternal obesity
- Above-normal weight gain during pregnancy
- High pre-birth weight of the baby
- Advanced age of mother
- Maternal diabetes
- Short or small mother
- Flat, contracted or exceptionally small pelvis
- Abnormally long gestation period
- Prolonged labor
- Breech position
A C-section is the surest way to prevent brachial plexus injuries, if risk factors are present. However, shoulder dystocia is not always detected early enough to allow for the performance of a C-section, and in some cases the operation is not safe. When a C-section is not an option, there are several things that doctors can do to prevent injuries.
Signs and symptoms
Early detection will improve your child’s likelihood of making a full recovery from brachial plexus injuries. Since some brachial plexus injuries resolve on their own within a few months, your doctors may want to wait to perform any type of surgery. Physical therapy, which often means range of motion exercises which you will perform with your baby at home, should be started right away to keep the muscles toned and flexible. The most common symptoms are a limp or paralyzed shoulder, arm, wrist, or hand.
Treatment and recovery
Brachial plexus injuries can usually be treated. The success of treatment and extent of recovery depend largely on the severity and type of injury. Mild injuries may resolve on their own within a few months. Severe injuries usually require surgery to reconnect torn nerves, and can result in a lifetime of disability. All cases require physical therapy to maximize recovery.
- Medical Malpractice: Birth Trauma
- Erb’s Palsy
- Birth Brain Injury
- Birth Injuries: Hyperbilirubinemia and Kernicterus
If your child has been diagnosed with brachial plexus injury and you believe the condition was caused by medical or obstetrical negligence, please contact our birth injury lawyers today. Our skilled medical malpractice attorneys have the resources and experience with complex brachial plexus injury lawsuits to get you and your child the compensation you need and deserve.
Disclaimer – The contents of the BurgSimpson.com website, including text, graphics, images, and other material contained herein (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the BurgSimpson.com website!
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by BurgSimpson.com or Burg Simpson employees is solely at your own risk.