Having a baby is a happy time, but it can also be very stressful. This stress can be compounded when labor and delivery don’t go as planned. When the appropriate precautions and steps aren’t taken by medical professionals, difficult labor can lead to serious birth injuries to the baby. Brachial plexus injuries are often the result of medical negligence during delivery.
What is the Brachial Plexus?
The brachial plexus is a system of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulders, arms, and hands. A brachial plexus injury can occur when these nerves are compressed, stretched, or torn away from the spinal cord. One of the most common causes of brachial plexus injuries is trauma during birth. The result can be a loss of muscle function or even paralysis of the arm.
Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
Birth injuries can result from one of four types of brachial plexus injuries:
- Neuropraxia—occurs when the nerves are stretched but not damaged. The most common type of brachial plexus injury, it can usually require years of physical therapy and can sometimes result in permanent issues.
- Neuroma—occurs when a torn nerve is healed but scar tissue forms. Scar tissue puts pressure on the nerve and can prevent signals from traveling through.
- Ruptures—a tear in the nerve that does not occur at the spine. Ruptures usually require surgery to repair.
- Avulsion—the most severe type of injury, an avulsion is a tear of the nerve at the spinal cord. An avulsion can result in life-long damage to the arm.
Erb’s palsy is the most common type of brachial plexus birth injury. It results when the upper brachial plexus nerves are stretched during delivery. A child with Erb’s palsy may not be able to move their shoulder and will typically require extensive physical therapy. Sometimes more intense treatment such as surgery is required. In some cases, Erb’s palsy can result in permanent damage.
Risk Factors for Brachial Plexus Injuries
There are a number of risk factors that make brachial plexus injuries more likely. Medical professionals should be aware of these factors and take precautions when faced with them. Risk factors include:
- Shoulder dystocia—when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvis during delivery
- Large infant
- Prolonged labor
- Maternal obesity
- Use of assistive devices such as forceps during labor
- Induced labor
Medical professionals should take extra precautions when risk factors are present and should recognize the need for a c-section when required to prevent injury to a baby.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you believe your child has sustained a brachial plexus birth injury as the result of medical negligence, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping New Yorkers injured by medical malpractice. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.