A brachial plexus injury can be a traumatic experience for families. The joy of the arrival of a new child can be overshadowed by concern about the health of a newborn suffering from brachial plexus.
If your child has been injured and is suffering from brachial plexus, you should consult a qualitied and experienced medical malpractice attorney
Brachial plexus is a rare but preventable injury that occurs in about 1-2 births per 1,000. While brachial plexus injuries can occur at any time, they are most commonly seen during birth.
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that lead from the spine through the neck and arms. An infant can injure its brachial plexus during birth usually when its shoulder is caught and stretched behind the mother’s pelvic bone. When the shoulder is stuck, the brachial plexus can be compressed, torn or stretched.
These injuries often happen during a very long or stressful delivery or if a physician tugs or pulls too hard while removing the child. Skilled physicians have several techniques to use to ensure an infant is not harmed, meaning birth-related brachial plexus injuries are often the result of carelessness or negligence.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a brachial plexus injury. If a health-care provider is negligent in these areas, it can result in a brachial plexus injury:
- Failure to estimate the baby’s proper weight
- Failure to assess if the baby’s shoulders can fit through the birth canal
- Placing too much traction on the baby’s neck during delivery
The injury can be caused by a number of specific medical actions. In some cases the doctor may not see that the baby’s shoulder is caught on the pelvic bone and is rushing to remove the child before the umbilical cord is compressed in the birth canal. In a breech birth or if there are indications of fetal distress, a physician may choose to use forceps or a vacuum to remove the baby. However, if the forceps or vacuum are used improperly, the child’s skull, neck, shoulder, and arms can be harmed.
Prevention, however, is possible.
Physicians can prevent brachial plexus injuries by physicians who closely monitor the mother and baby in pre-natal care and during delivery. Many causes of difficult deliveries can be detected on an ultrasound to assess the baby’s position within the womb.
There are degrees of brachial plexus injuries. In less severe cases, usually only one arm is affected. In more severe cases, nerves can be torn or rupture. In the worst case, the nerve root is torn completely from the spinal cord.
When a brachial plexus injury has occurred there are a number of indications. Many of these may be difficult to assess in a newborn or young baby, but they include:
- Arm numbness or weakness
- Inability to use muscles in a shoulder, arm or hand
- A lack of movement or feeling in the arm, including the shoulder and hand
Delaying treatment of brachial plexus injuries can lead to less than ideal outcomes. A child with these injuries may suffer from Erby’s palsy, in which the upper arm is damaged. With Klumpke’s palsy, the lower arm and had are affected.
With serious injuries it can take up to two years for a child to fully recover from the damage. Over time, if untreated, these injuries can result in a stiffening of joints, nerve pain that can become chronic, a loss of feeling in the arm or hand, a degeneration of muscles, paralysis in the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers, and even permanent disability.
If a medical malpractice lawsuit is warranted, it can help ease the cost of medical expenses already incurred and those required for future treatment as well. Compensation may cover physical therapy, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, in-home care, lost wages and emotional anguish. It is also possible for punitive damages to be awarded.
A skilled medical malpractice attorney will meet with you to determine the validity and strength of a brachial injury malpractice case. The attorney will assess whether a particular medical provider was caring for your child when the injuries happened, if that provider was negligent or careless in caring for your child and if this breach of duty led to the injury.
If you believe that your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury, call our law firm today to arrange for a complimentary evaluation of your case. Our talented attorneys have extensive experience in medical malpractice matters and are here to help you get the compensation you deserve.