Brachial plexus injuries, also known as brachial plexus palsy, Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, are the result of a birth complication called shoulder dystocia. These types of cases may involve medical negligence and malpractice, because these conditions are often foreseeable and preventable.
The brachial plexus is an arrangement of nerve fibers running from the spine through the neck, the armpit region and into the arm. It controls movement of the hands, arms and shoulders. Brachial plexus palsy (shoulder dystocia) occurs when the fetus’ shoulders are too large for the birth canal and subsequently become trapped behind the pubic bone, after the delivery of the head. When that occurs, a range of injuries can follow, including a broken arm and strain of the nerves that travel through the neck – a condition called brachioplexus.
If your baby suffered some form of brachial plexus injury during birth in Illinois , call or contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. immediately.
The following are types of brachial plexus injuries that thousands of babies sustain each year:
- Erb’s Palsy, also known as brachial plexus palsy, occurs when birth trauma affects one or all five of the primary nerves that supply the movement and feeling to shoulders and arms. This type of injury refers to damage in the upper plexus. The paralysis can be partial or complete.
- Klumpke’s palsy refers to damage in the lower plexus. Like Erb’s, Klumpke’s palsy can lead to paralysis or weakness that comes from stretching the nerves during delivery. Children with Klumpke’s palsy do not have full range of movement in their hands and wrists.
Some factors that have most often been present when brachial plexus injuries occur include a heavy or large baby, prolonged labor, excessive force being used during delivery and a breech birth (feet or bottom first). While these factors do not generally cause a brachial plexus injury each time they occur, many of them do occur when the injuries are sustained. The four main types of brachial plexus injuries include rupture, avulsion, neuroma and neuropraxia.
Neuropraxia is the most benign form of brachial plexus injury and is a damaged, but un-torn nerve tissue in the baby. Most cases of neuropraxia heal themselves within a few months without medical attention. A rupture occurs when the brachial plexus nerves are torn, but not completely off of the spinal region. A neuroma occurs when the nerve tissue is damaged and the resulting scar tissue grows too large, affecting the nerve’s messaging capabilities. Avulsion is the most serious form of brachial plexus injury and consists of the entire separation of the nerve from the spine.
Doctors can anticipate and prevent shoulder dystocia in many cases by watching for early warning signs, such as gestational diabetes, obesity in the mother or excessive weight gain during the pregnancy. Also at risk are expectant mothers with a small pelvis, those who previously gave birth to a large baby, and those in post-term pregnancy.
Three in every 1,000 babies suffer an injury to the brachial plexus as a result of a shoulder dystocia. In many of these cases, medical negligence is to blame. If a doctor doesn’t notice that the baby is too large for natural delivery and doesn’t perform a caesarean birth instead, or uses the wrong delivery method once the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck, the physician may have behaved negligently.
For more information or to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, please contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard today.