Brachial Plexus Injuries During Childbirth

Brachial Plexus Injuries

The Brachial Plexus is the band of nerves that runs through the neck and shoulder and which control shoulder, arm, and hand movement. Nearly two out of every 1,000 newborn babies suffer a Brachial Plexus injury during childbirth, making it one of the most common birth injuries. In most cases, these injuries happen when the child’s shoulder is caught behind part of the pelvic bone, which can cause the Brachial Plexus to be compressed, stretched or torn, also known as shoulder dystocia.

The worst aspect of it is, nearly all of these injuries are preventable; they most often occur when the baby’s head or arm is twisted, tilted or turned with too much force by medical personnel when they try to free the baby’s shoulder from the pelvis, which can cause the Brachial Plexus nerves to become overstretched, resulting in injury. Sometimes, these injuries also occur during a cesarean section.

A Brachial Plexus injury can lead to either full or partial paralysis to any or all of the muscles that control the shoulder, arm or hand; the extent of the child’s disability will depend on which nerves have been damaged and the severity of that damage. These injuries are usually easily identifiable by an arm that turns inward, or swelling, bruising or bone fractures, and common symptoms of a Brachial Plexus injury can include a lack of feeling and/or muscle control in the arm, wrist or hand, a complete inability to use the shoulder or elbow or an arm that shows signs of paralysis. Other injuries that may indicate the presence of a Brachial Plexus injury include a broken shoulder, partial dislocation of the cervical spine or facial paralysis.

A birth injury diagnosis is often very complicated and may not fit cleanly into one of the main injury groups. Brachial Plexus nerves may be injured and the diagnosis finds a combination of several types of injuries mainly falling into four types.

The four types of Brachial Plexus Injuries include:

  • Neuropraxia describes a range of what are called stretch injuries that can range from mild neuropraxia, which usually features the possibility of a relatively quick recovery, to complete paralysis, with no potential for recovery. The extent of the neuropraxia will depend on the amount of stretching.
  • Neuroma injuries happen when there is a buildup of scar tissue, which develops as the injured nerve heals itself. The scar tissue can compress the nerves and prevent them from sending signals to the muscles. With this type of injury, surgery is required to restore function.
  • Avulsion injuries are the most severe type of Brachial Plexus, which happen when the nerves are actually pulled from the spinal cord. They require extensive surgery to restore function.
  • Rupture injuries occur when the nerves are torn at several locations except at the spinal cord. These types of injuries require significant surgery and physical therapy to restore normal function.

One thing that is common to all of these injuries is that they usually indicate negligence on the part of health care providers. Often, they have failed to properly estimate the baby’s weight, or to determine that the baby’s shoulders are too wide to fit through the birth canal or they simply applied too much pressure to the fetal neck during delivery.

Texas Birth Injury Lawyers

If your child has been diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury following a difficult labor, and you suspect that a doctor, nurse or other health care provider was negligent in providing you with adequate care during the pregnancy or delivery process, a lawsuit may be the only way for you to be compensated for the continuing care the child will need to fully recover to the extent possible. Please contact the Birth Injury Attorneys at the Gutierrez Law Firm to schedule a free consultation, so that we can look at the facts and discuss your options.