Understanding Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries
The brachial plexus is a nerve network extending from the spine, through the neck and into the arm. The nerves of the brachial plexus extend from the lower cervical spine, specifically C5 through C8, as well as from the upper thoracic spine at T1. These nerves make it possible for the brain to monitor and control the muscles of the shoulder, arm and hand, and injuries to the brachial plexus can lead to partial or total paralysis throughout the limb, a condition referred to as Erb’s palsy. The prevalence of brachial plexus palsy as the result of birth injuries is approximately five out of 1,000 throughout the nation.
What Causes A Brachial Plexus Injury?
Injuries to the brachial plexus can occur at any time of life, but when they take place during childbirth they are frequently caused by the doctor’s use of excessive force in pulling on the baby’s head. When the child becomes stuck in the birth canal due to shoulder dystocia or other types of birth complications, it becomes necessary for the obstetrician to perform emergency maneuvers to protect both baby and mother from serious injury or death. If he or she pulls too hard on the child’s head or arm, the nerves of the brachial plexus may be damaged. The severity of injury depends on whether the nerves are stretched (neurapraxia), ripped (neurotmesis) or torn from the root (avulsion).
Can A Brachial Plexus Injury Be Treated?
Some brachial plexus injuries will heal on their own with little or no attention, while others can be handled through various forms of exercise that you can perform beginning when your child is still an infant. More serious injuries may require invasive surgery such as grafting sections of nerve from other parts of the child’s body or redirecting a nerve from one section to another. The cost of such treatment can be staggering, in addition to the expenses for future medical treatment and the possibility that your child has sustained a permanent disability that will prevent him or her from becoming financially independent as an adult. To discuss the situation and learn whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim, contact us today at The Law Office of Richard M. Kenny.