As mentioned above, challenging birth circumstances make brachial plexus injuries more likely.
Examples of difficult delivery conditions include:
- Breech deliveries - Babies born feet-first are at a higher risk of these injuries.
- Large newborns - Abnormally large infants are more likely to cause delivery complications. C-sections are an effective method for mitigating these difficulties.
- Shoulder dystocia - This occurs when the baby's head has been delivered, but the shoulders become trapped in the birth canal.
Mishandling of difficult birth conditions often leads brachial plexus injuries. Examples of possible negligence include:
- Head and neck stretching - Sometimes, the baby's head and neck may be pulled at an awkward angle as the shoulders are delivered.
- Shoulder stretching - The deliverer may use too much force during a head-first delivery, resulting in shoulders stretching.
- Pressure on arms - In a feet-first delivery, excess force on the raised arms can cause an injury.
Many of these injuries could be avoided with more careful measures. For example, a c-section has been reliably proven to reduce complications for large infants. Failure to order one could constitute negligence and/or malpractice.
Types Of Injuries
Brachial plexus injuries range from relatively minor to severe. Minor injuries may heal on their own or with light physical therapy. More serious ones could cause permanent disabilities and may require medication or surgery.
This is the most common and the most minor brachial plexus injury. Small strains and tears occur in the nerves, but the actual injury only affects the nerve's protective coating and covering. The nerve itself is usually unaffected. Symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Increased sensitivity
While this injury is comparatively minor, it's still painful. If your baby's neurapraxia was the result of a healthcare professional's negligence, you may have a medical malpractice case.
Sometimes, scar tissue may encircle and grow over the injured nerves. This increases pressure on the area and makes it more difficult for the nerve to send signals. Severity varies - minor cases may heal on their own, while large sections of scar tissue may need to be removed through surgery. Neurolysis is a popular treatment method for affected infants, involving the alternation of hot and cold stimuli.
Erb's palsy is a condition which affects the upper portion of the brachial plexus nerve network. This condition is curable if it is properly treated. Usually, physically therapy guided by the parent will suffice. There are rare cases when the child does not fully recover, in which case surgery may be required. Symptoms of Erb's palsy include:
- Full or partial paralysis in one arm
- Range of motion problems
- Difficulty gripping objects
- Arm bent inward toward body
- Arm hangs limp
Erb's palsy often requires frequent doctor's appointments, physical therapy, surgeries, and missed time from work to care for the child. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit can hold negligent parties liable for these and other expenses.
Klumpke's palsy affects the lower region of the brachial plexus network and is commonly caused by shoulder dystocia. The affected area experiences numbness, a reduction in range of motion, and a claw-like appearance in the hand. Minor cases may heal on their own, while more severe cases could require medication and surgery.