Injuries to the Brachial Plexus in Infants
Despite being one of the most common medical procedures handled by any hospital, birth can be a complex, traumatic procedure, both for the mother and the infant. There are hundreds of ways that a birth can go wrong, and just as many injuries that an infant could suffer in the process of being born. One common form of birth injury suffered by babies during birth is to the set of nerves known as the brachial plexus. Read on to learn how these injuries happen, and what sorts of effects these injuries can cause.
What is a Brachial Plexus injury?
Brachial plexus injuries occur in one to two of every 1,000 births in the US. The brachial plexus is a set of nerves that connects the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. When these nerve endings become stretched or torn, the injury victim may lose sensation or movement in the affected arm, or experience stinging or burning in that arm. When the upper portion of the brachial plexus is damaged during birth, infants may develop Erb’s Palsy. This disorder can result in a reduced ability to move the affected arm, atrophy of the muscles in the affected arm, and even life-long weakness in that arm.
What causes a brachial plexus injury?
Brachial plexus injuries typically result from difficult births. The damage can occur if the infant is stuck for an extended period in the mother’s birth canal, resulting in the nerves in the infant’s neck being pinched. Additionally, if a baby’s head and neck are twisted away from the shoulders during delivery, this can damage the brachial plexus. Babies who are born breech are at an especially high risk of brachial plexus injury, due to the difficulty and often contorted positions of these births.
Are brachial plexus injuries avoidable?
Brachial plexus injuries can often be avoided with attentive prenatal care and attentive monitoring of the baby’s position and condition during labor. Reasonable doctors and nurses know to carefully note the baby’s position in the days leading up to the due date, and have a duty to either attempt to reposition the fetus before birth, or plan for the predictable complications during labor that will result from the baby’s position. Brachial plexus damage can result when doctors exert too much force on a fetus with the use of forceps or a vacuum, thus straining the nerve bundle. During labor, if a doctor fails to intervene when the fetus is distressed, or does not recognize that a caesarean section is necessary, then that doctor could be responsible for resulting brachial plexus damage, as well as other injuries.
If you or your child have experienced injuries during the birth process, speak with an attorney who can help you determine whether you would benefit by filing a claim for damages. In Lexington, contact the skilled, compassionate, and trial-ready Kentucky personal injury attorney Stephen M. O’Brien for a consultation, at 859-317-2056.