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Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries

Our Columbus Ohio Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help Determine Whether Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries were Preventable

The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves originating in the lower neck and upper back area. These nerves service the muscles and skin of the chest, shoulder, arms and hands. In general terms, Brachial plexus birth injuries are classified as traumatic or obstetric. Most obstetric brachial plexus injuries are preventable.

Brachial plexus birth injuries are of result of stretching, rupture or tearing of the brachial plexus nerves during delivery, occurring in one to three out of every 1,000 births. Most obstetrical brachial plexus injuries are caused by use of excessive force by the doctor during delivery. Brachial plexus injuries usually occur during a prolonged or difficult birth as a result of mechanical injuries involving shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is one of the main causes of brachial plexus palsy. Shoulder dystocia generally occurs when the infant’s shoulders become wedged within the birth canal or stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone. Shoulder dystocia is often the result of the failure of the doctor to properly estimate the size of the baby. The force used to free the baby – usually via forceps or vacuum – can damage the brachial plexus nerves.

When the upper nerves (C5 to C7) are injured, the condition is called Erb’s palsy. Injury to the lower nerves (C8 to T1) results in Klumpke’s palsy. If both the lower and upper nerves are involved, the injury is known as total brachial plexus birth palsy. Some brachial plexus injuries affect the facial nerves, causing a rare condition known as Horner’s Syndrome which is characterized by constricted pupils, retraction of the eyeball and drooping of the eyelid. Horner’s Syndrome is associated with an avulsion or tear of the nerve from the spinal cord and indicates a serious injury to the brachial plexus.

Risk factors for brachial plexus birth injuries include large gestational size (usually caused by gestational diabetes), breech birth, prolonged or difficult labor, vacuum or forceps delivery, twin or multiple birth pregnancy, history of prior delivery with brachial plexus birth injury and history of delivery of large infant.

Brachial plexus injuries may result in a child having little or no feeling in their arms or hands, little or no muscle control of their hands, shoulders, arms and/or elbows or paralysis of the arm.

Treatment of brachial plexus injuries depends on the severity of the injury, but may include surgery, physical therapy, botox injections, and nerve grafting. In the case of brachial plexus injuries, the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true.

Contact a Lawyer

If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury, contact the experienced birth injury lawyers of Clark, Perdue & List.

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