Klumpke’s palsy, also known as Dejerine-Klumpke palsy, is an injury of the lower brachial plexus. 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. Klumpke’s palsy refers specifically to injuries that involve the muscles of the forearm and hand – often causing paralysis of the forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. In some cases, other symptoms may accompany the impaired arm/hand functions, including eyelid drooping and pupil dilation in one eye.
Unlike Erb’s palsy, a true case of Klumpke’s palsy is very rare – although often the term is used in conjunction with injuries that affect the entire brachial plexus region. What Klumpke’s palsy does share with Erb’s palsy is a common cause: delivery complications arising from shoulder dystocia. When the baby’s shoulders become lodged against the mother’s pubic bone and are too large to pass through the birth canal, there are very specific maneuvers that a doctor can safely attempt to remove the baby. If these procedures are followed, the chance for traumatic injury is lessened. However, when medical practitioners neglect to follow these steps or aren’t skilled in performing them, the implications can be severe.
Klumpke’s palsy results when excessive force is applied to the baby’s head and neck in an attempt to dislodge the baby’s shoulders during delivery. Pulling and twisting of these delicate areas can stretch, tear or rupture the nerves in the brachial plexus. The damage is typically permanent; injuries associated with Klumpke’s palsy may not respond as favorably to physical therapy and motion exercises as other brachial plexus injuries. Surgery may be an option in certain cases.
Trained medical professionals understand the risk factors for shoulder dystocia, and an experienced obstetrician can prevent most circumstances in which Klumpke’s palsy could occur. In particular, breech births have been associated with shoulder dystocia injuries involving Klumpke’s palsy, and most doctors recommend caesarean sections for breech deliveries to avoid such potential complications.
While birth injuries may happen despite the best medical care, most instances of Klumpke’s palsy could have been prevented. If the obstetrician does not pay attention to known risk factors for shoulder dystocia, or fails to properly manage delivery complications, the doctor may have acted negligently.
If your baby suffers from Klumpke’s palsy as a result of a birth injury in Illinois, call or contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., immediately. For more information or to schedule a free, no obligation consultation, please contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today.