Welcoming a child into the world is typically a joyous experience for parents and families. Although birth events call for celebration, when handled incorrectly by trusted medical professionals, such a happy time can quickly take a catastrophic turn. Babies are small and sensitive and one wrong move during delivery can cause life-altering trauma.
The brachial plexus is a crucial area of the spine that houses the nerve network that sends signals from the spine to the arms, hands, and shoulders. While all areas of the spine are sensitive, the brachial plexus is particularly vulnerable. In newborn babies, the brachial plexus is especially vulnerable due to their fragile and developing frame. All newborn injuries are serious, but a brachial plexus injury can cause permanent and debilitating damage that can require a lifetime of medical care and treatment.
What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
A brachial plexus injury occurs when the nerves are compressed, stretched, or in the most severe cases, severed or torn from the spinal cord. Minor brachial plexus injuries are potentially treatable; however, serious injuries can leave one or both baby’s arms paralyzed, with loss of function and feeling. Surgical procedures are available to attempt to resolve these birth injuries including muscle transfers, nerve grafts, and nerve transfers, which can help restore arm function. Unfortunately, however, in babies and children these treatments may not be viable options and the injuries can be permanent. Whether or not a surgical option is available for birth injury victims, the upset and stress of caring for an injured newborn, plus the costs of ongoing medical care can rob families of the happy memories they deserve during their child’s precious formative years.
What is Brachial Plexus Palsy?
Brachial plexus palsy is a condition similar in appearance to cerebral palsy and Erb’s Palsy. The condition occurs when there is permanent damage to this area of the spine, and it can affect everything from the fingertips to the shoulder – and even the neck and face if the damage is severe enough.
There are several types of brachial plexus injuries. They include an avulsion, or tearing of the nerve from the spinal cord, or a rupture, which involves the nerve busting or breaking suddenly. Scar tissue can collect around the injured area, resulting in a neuroma or stretching of the nerve; however, the most common related birth injury is shoulder dystocia.
Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Palsy
Injury to the brachial plexus can inhibit the control and use of muscles as well as cause a loss of feeling in the arm. Because of the sensitivity of this group of nerves, brachial plexus injuries can vary in both severity and location. Minor symptoms include feeling a shock or burning sensation throughout the arm as well as numbness. Severe injury to the brachial plexus could cause the following symptoms in birth injury victims:
- Inability to move arms, hands, or shoulders
- Complete loss of feeling in the arm, including a loss of feeling in the hands and shoulders
- Severe pain in the arm, hand, or shoulder areas
- Neck pain
- Recurring feelings of burning sensations in the arm, shoulder, or hand
Symptoms of brachial plexus injury can occur in one or both arms and shoulders. If a child is experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it’s crucial that parents seek medical attention as severe brachial plexus injury such as paralysis are highly unlikely to heal on their own. Additionally, a delay in diagnosis and treatment can increase the severity of the injury and cause it to spread to the neck and head.
Factors That Can Contribute to Brachial Plexus Injury
Newborns can sustain this sort of injury when there are problems during birth. Because of the sensitivity of delivering a newborn, physicians and delivery staff are specifically trained to manage and safely deliver babies safely even in the event of an abnormal delivery. When physicians and delivery staff act negligently and do not follow proper safe delivery protocols, newborns can be left with permanent injuries. Physicians and delivery room staff ca
n fail both parent and newborn if negligent actions are taken during any of the following birth events:
- Breech birth (feet first birth)
- Prolonged labor
- Large birth weight contributing to a difficult birth
- Excessive force used with forceps during birth
- Excessive force used with vacuum during birth
When the upper nerves in the spine suffer damage, patients risk developing a condition called Erb’s Palsy. When both the upper and lower nerves of the spine are damaged, this results in brachial plexus palsy – which can be far more devastating.
Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyers
Birth injuries are tragic events, and when the injury is caused by the negligent actions of a trusted physician or medical professional, newborns and their families deserve justice for the damages they suffer. If you suspect
your child may have suffered a brachial plexus injury or another injury during pregnancy, childbirth, or post-natal care, contact the Philadelphia birth injury lawyers of Lopez McHugh LLP today to confidentially discuss your case at no cost.