Brachial Plexus Lawsuit
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; 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 its fragile and developing frame. All newborn injuries are serious, but a brachial plexus injury can cause permanent and debilitating damage requiring a lifetime of medical care and treatment.
What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
In the most severe cases, a brachial plexus injury occurs when the nerves are compressed, stretched, 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.
Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
Brachial plexus birth injuries are classified according to the type of nerve injury and the nerve patterns involved. Listed below are the various types of nerve injuries.
This is the most common type of brachial plexus injury. With this injury, the nerve has stretched but has not torn. This type of injury occurs outside of the spinal cord. It is possible that the affected nerves may heal naturally within the baby’s first three months.
When the injury is considered a rupture, this means that the nerve is torn, but not at the place it attaches to the spine. This is also a common form of injury that occurs outside of the spinal column. The required treatment is typically a surgical repair.
This is a less common injury that occurs in the spinal cord, in roughly 10 to 20 percent of all cases. Nerve roots are torn from the spinal cord, and cannot be directly repaired through surgery.
This type of injury may cause nerve damage to the diaphragm, which can cause issues with breathing. The avulsion sufferer may have a droopy eyelid on the affected side, signaling a more serious issue like Horner’s syndrome. The damaged tissue must be surgically replaced.
What is Brachial Plexus Palsy?
Brachial plexus palsy is a condition similar in appearance to cerebral palsy and Erb’s Palsy. The condition occurs with permanent damage to this area of the spine and 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 involving 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 the arms, hands, and/or shoulders
- Complete loss of feeling in the arm, including a loss of feeling in the hands and/or shoulders
- Severe pain in the arm, hand, and/or shoulder areas
- Neck pain
- Recurring feelings of burning sensations in the arm, shoulder, and/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 injuries 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 involved with delivering a newborn, physicians and delivery staff are specifically trained to manage and 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 can fail both parent and newborn if negligent actions are taken or inaction during any of the following birth events results in harm to your baby:
- 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.
Brachial plexus injuries sustained in childbirth damage the nerves that control movement and sensation in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Such injuries are caused when the baby is pulled during delivery. There are several available treatment routes your infant’s doctor may suggest, listed below:
- Physical therapy is commonly offered as the first and most immediate treatment for brachial plexus injuries in newborns. Physical therapists will begin working to improve the baby’s strength and their range of motion in the affected arm and shoulder. To improve the infant’s flexibility and strength, the therapist will use specific massage techniques, gentle stretches, and exercises.
- Occupational therapy may be available for infants with brachial plexus injuries at birth. These therapeutic techniques will focus on improving the baby’s ability to make it easier for the parents and baby to dress, feed, and play.
- It may be necessary to perform surgical procedures to repair the damage created by the brachial plexus injury. The type of surgery required will be dictated by the location and severity of the injury. It may involve nerve grafts or transfers to restore the injured arm’s function.
- Some non-invasive treatments may improve the condition through nerve stimulation, often paired with physical therapy. To promote healing, electrical impulses are sent to the damaged nerves.
- Botox injections, customarily used to relax facial muscles, can be used to relax painful muscles due to overactivity or limited range of motion. By reducing the range of motion, the pain is also diminished.
The injury, potential outcome, and treatment of brachial plexus injuries are unique to each individual case. Your healthcare team, usually including the baby’s pediatrician, neurologist, and physical and occupational therapists, will create an early intervention treatment plan to improve the baby’s overall health and hopefully prevent a long-term disability.
Medical treatments can be expensive. You will want to speak with a lawyer experienced in handling birth injury cases involving brachial plexus injuries about recovering the costs of the medical interventions and therapies that were necessary following the birth. Specialized treatments like these for very young children are essential for the best possible outcome.
Ways a Birth Injury Attorney Can Help
A Pennsylvania birth injury attorney with Lopez McHugh LLP can be helpful in several different ways, including:
- By offering legal advice, a Pennsylvania birth injury lawyer can explain the options available to parents with have children who are struggling with brachial plexus injuries. This could cover information concerning their legal rights to understanding the intricacies of filing a claim for damages.
- Your birth injury attorney will investigate the circumstances that triggered the brachial plexus injury by reviewing medical records, speaking with experts, and interviewing witnesses to determine whether the injury resulted from medical negligence.
- Negotiations can be complicated, and a dedicated, experienced birth injury lawyer will understand the best tactics to rely on when securing a fair and generous settlement to cover the expenses related to your child’s medical needs, therapy, and other injury-related expenses.
- If negotiations do not produce a fair settlement, a Pennsylvania birth injury attorney can file a lawsuit on your family’s behalf. Our legal team is ready to litigate if need be.
Contact the compassionate legal team of Lopez McHugh, LLP to discuss your options. Your child’s future may depend upon it.
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.