Newborn clavicle fractures are one of the most common birth injuries. They occur when the clavicle of the child breaks during birth. In most cases, clavicle fractures occur naturally, and they heal without incident. However, in other cases, the negligence of a healthcare provider causes the fracture or worsens the condition.
What is a newborn clavicle fracture?
The clavicle is also known as the collar bone, and this bone may fracture during a difficult labor and delivery. Alternatively, it may break due to birth trauma such as excessive force with forceps, a vacuum or hands.
What are some complications associated with newborn clavicle fractures?
If a newborn fractures his clavicle, he may also injure his brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the baby’s arms and hands. This is a very serious injury that can have long term side effects.
If your baby has suffered from a clavicle fracture and he cannot flex or rotate one arm, that is a sign that his brachial plexus has also been injured. These injuries range in severity, but all brachial plexus injuries are relatively severe and require extensive treatment.
If your child’s brachial plexus has been bruised or the nerves have been stretched out of alignment, your baby will likely heal, but to ensure he has a full range of movement in his arms, he will likely need physical or occupational therapy. If the nerves are ripped, your child may experience permanent nerve damage, and as a result, he may struggle to ever use his affected arm or hand.
How can you avoid newborn clavicle fractures?
There are a number of indicators that increase a baby’s likelihood of experiencing a birth injury such as a broken clavicle bone. Ideally, your obstetrician-gynecologist, midwife or other healthcare provider should know and understand these risks, and he should take steps to help minimize them and manage the situation.
The risk of birth injuries increase for babies who weigh over 8 pounds. In addition the shape of the mother’s pelvis can also increase the risk of injury. If your child’s clavicle was broken and your baby was larger than average or your pelvis is narrow, you need to consider how your healthcare provider managed those risks.
Did he insist upon an ultrasound to estimate the baby’s size? Did he suggest a cesarean-section instead of a vaginal birth to avoid the risk of a broken clavicle? Did he advise you of the risks?
The position of the child in utero just before birth can also have an impact on the potential for birth injuries. In most cases, babies move into position a few weeks before their births. The optimal position for birthing is head down, and in most cases, the baby’s face is oriented toward the mother’s tailbone, but it flips the other direction during birth.
However, many babies assume other positions, and rather than presenting their heads first, they present their legs, buttocks or even fists first. Ideally, your healthcare provider should know what position your baby is in — this can be assessed through an ultrasound or by palpating the uterus externally. If your healthcare provider senses your baby is in a difficult position for labor and delivery, he needs to advise you and make adjustments accordingly.
Regardless of the baby’s size or position, if the labor or delivery is difficult and drawn out, that can also increase the chances of all kinds of birth injuries including a fractured clavicle. If your delivery was excessively long, the way your healthcare provider responds is essential. Did he monitor the baby thoroughly for distress with an internal fetal monitor? Did he recommend a change in the birthing plan as the birth progressed?
Finally, if the baby starts to come through the birth canal but gets stuck, the doctor’s response has a huge impact on the baby’s risk of a broken clavicle. If the baby was stuck and the doctor pulled on his arm, that could have caused both the fractured clavicle and an injured plexus.
What is the treatment for a broken clavicle?
If your child has a simple broken clavicle, it may heal naturally. However, if your infant feels pain, you need to put a sling on the arm to hold it steady. If your child has complications, he may need physical therapy, pain management or possibly even help facing a life without the use of a hand or arm.
What are your rights?
Regardless of the type of healthcare provider you saw during your labor and delivery, you have a right to responsible care. Legally, physicians, nurse midwives and others are held to a reasonable standard of care. If your healthcare provider does not provide with a reasonable standard of care and you or your baby suffers an injury as a result, you have a right to compensation.
You deserve to be compensated for your child’s extra medical bills. If you lost time at work, spent extra money on child care or help around your home ,or had to travel to receive medical care, you also deserve compensation for those expenses. Finally, you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering.
What can you do?
If your child has been the victim of a birth injury, it’s time to consult with an attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help you assess the severity of your child’s injury and whether or not your doctor is liable. If so, they can help you pursue a settlement.