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Brachial Plexus Injuries During Birth

Despite great advances in the field of obstetrics, each day thousands of infants are injured during childbirth. These injuries vary greatly in severity; while some result only in brief injuries for the newborn child, others can alter the path of that child’s life permanently. Brachial plexus injuries are one of the more common forms of injury which can occur to infants during childbirth, occurring in about two in every 1,000 births in the US. Learn more about the causes and consequences of these injuries, below.

Injuries to the brachial plexus

The brachial plexus is the name for the bundle of nerves running from the spine into the shoulder, arm, and hand. When this nerve bundle experiences severe pressure or is pulled or strained, victims can experience loss of feeling, burning, or weakness in the impacted limb. In severe cases where the nerve bundle is torn or severed, victims can experience total paralysis.

Causes of brachial plexus injuries

The most common cause of birth injuries to the brachial plexus is a difficult, long, or breech birth. If the infant’s shoulders become caught in the birth canal for an extended period, the resulting pressure can put damage on the nerve bundle. If the baby is tugged by a vacuum or forceps with too great of force during birth, the brachial plexus can become strained and damaged. During a breech birth, the baby may experience pressure on their raised arms during delivery, straining or damaging the nerves. These birth injuries may be avoidable with careful monitoring of the fetus’ position before and during labor. Additionally, a doctor who fails to recognize the need to intervene surgically when labor has become excessively difficult could be liable for the resulting injuries.

Consequences of brachial plexus injuries

In the case of a minor strain to the nerves, brachial plexus injuries may heal on their own. Alternatively, the infant may require a period of rehabilitation to regain full use of their arm. When the upper portion of the brachial plexus is seriously injured, babies can develop Erb’s Palsy. This can cause muscles in the affected arm to atrophy and the arm to hang limp, and can result in lifelong weakness in the affected arm and problems with circulation.

If you or your child has experienced an injury during birth in Maryland or in the District of Columbia, seek the compensation you may be owed for negligence or error on behalf of the treating physician, by contacting the medical malpractice attorneys at the law firm of Brault Graham, LLP for a free consultation, at 301-424-1060.