The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that directly supplies the motor and sensory components of a newborn baby’s shoulders, arms, and hands. If these nerves become damaged during the labor and delivery process, the child may become permanently or temporarily disabled, impaired, or paralyzed due to a condition called Erb’s palsy. This condition is almost always preventable. If your child has suffered due to this type of injury, a Baltimore Erb’s palsy lawyer can help you take legal action.
When a newborn is injured during the labor and delivery process, we refer to these types of injuries as birth injuries. These injuries are rare but can and do occur in hospitals and delivery rooms in Maryland and around the nation. Many are completely preventable with early risk assessment, proper monitoring of the child and mother, and an adequate response plan in case of delivery complications.
Some of the most common types of injuries during birth involve the brachial plexus, which controls the use of our shoulders, arms, and hands as we normally would. Damage to these nerves during the birthing process is usually caused by excessive stretching of the nerves which can be caused in a few different ways. This excessive stretching may cause a condition referred to as Erb’s palsy.
What Causes Most Brachial Plexus Injuries?
One of the most common ways that the brachial plexus nerves become injured is when a situation called shoulder dystocia occurs. Shoulder dystocia happens when a newborn’s shoulders get caught on the mother’s public bone at the brim of the pelvis during the birthing process. This usually occurs after the head is delivered which leaves the delivery team with few options of how to proceed.
The worst thing a delivery team can do at this point is to use brute force to pull the baby’s shoulders free. This is what causes damage to the brachial plexus nerves and in rare cases, the entire neonatal spinal column. If enough force is used, the brachial plexus may actually tear directly away from the spinal column, resulting in total paralysis or even death.
Instead of using brute force, a delivery team should focus on using natural methods that encourage the infant to find a new position that lets them avoid getting caught in the first place. Adjusting the position of the mother’s pelvis is recommended along with gently shifting the position of the infant’s shoulders. Proper prenatal monitoring can let a delivery team know when shoulder dystocia is a potential risk.
Other causes of brachial plexus injuries include excessively pulling or stretching an infant’s head to one side as their shoulders exit the birth canal, placing excessive pressure on an infant’s raised arms during a breach or feet-first delivery, or pulling on an infant’s shoulders during a head-first delivery. All cases of injury can be avoided by not using excessive force.
Since these injuries to your infant can be avoided and are a direct result of excessive force or negligence, you could seek damages from the doctor or medical professional who caused your baby’s Erb’s palsy. At Belsky & Horowitz, LLC, our Baltimore Erb’s palsy lawyer is here to help you through the claims process to get the justice you deserve. With representation from our firm, you can have peace of mind knowing that an experienced attorney is on your side and dedicated to getting you full and fair compensation.
Let’s take a look at the implications of different brachial plexus injuries that your baby could suffer from during childbirth.
What Are the Implications of Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke Paralysis?
Brachial plexus birth injuries can cause several serious complications to a newborn which may lead to temporary or permanent, pain, stiffness, paralysis, and/or mobility impairments. In some cases, injury is obvious right away, followed by complications. Other times, conditions and symptoms may take a month or two to fully form, appearing later in the child’s development.
Most brachial plexus injuries, including Erb’s palsy, begin with the symptoms of weakness, paralysis, limited mobility, and stiffness. Many injuries are referred to under or as the wider umbrella term “brachial plexus palsy” due to the common symptoms of weakness and partial or complete paralysis that most conditions present with.
The most common conditions that develop include the following:
Erb’s palsy is a type of palsy that can range from mild to severe and affects the upper brachial plexus nerves. The infant will normally show signs of a decreased range of motion or loss of muscle control in the shoulders, hands, arms, or wrists. Strength and sensation may also be affected.
Typically diagnosed at birth, the symptoms of Erb’s palsy tend to present in one side of the body more than the other, although both sides can be affected. The first noticeable symptoms include reduced reflexes, an arm that is naturally bent at the child’s elbow and held against the body, protrusion of the shoulder blade, lack of spontaneous movement in the arm and hand, and the lack of grip strength in the side or sides that are affected.
Klumpke paralysis, also referred to as Klumpke’s palsy, is similar to Erb’s palsy but affects the lower brachial plexus nerves and therefore tends to have more of an effect on the infant’s wrists, forearms, and hands.
Other common implications include hemorrhages and musculoskeletal injuries like fractures, dislocations, or broken bones. Minor injuries like these may take weeks or months to heal, but for infants with Klumpke paralysis, Erb’s palsy, or another type of brachial plexus palsy, their symptoms may be lifelong. For these children, they may require physical therapy, medication, and home and mobility assistance for the rest of their lives.
Most Common Causes of Erb’s Palsy
When you’re preparing to give birth to your baby, you may have some fears that it won’t go as smoothly as it’s supposed to. Most of the time, your baby will be healthy and you won’t have to worry about any complications. Unfortunately, no matter how much you prepare for childbirth, doctors can still make mistakes that result in an injury to your child.
As mentioned above, Erb’s palsy happens when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal and damage is caused to the nerves in the baby’s neck. Here are some of the specific scenarios that could lead to your baby suffering from Erb’s palsy:
- Large Baby. When a baby is larger than usual, it can be more difficult for it to pass through the birth canal. This can lead to torsion on different body parts of the baby and can even cause brachial plexus during delivery when the pressure is put on the baby’s neck.
- Breech Baby. Normally, a baby is born headfirst. When a baby is breech, they come out feet first. This can be dangerous for the baby because the head and shoulders are the largest part of the baby that needs to pass through the birth canal, so when the feet go through first, their shoulders and head can get stuck. When the shoulders get stuck in the birth canal, it can lead to injuries like Erb’s palsy.
- Shoulder Dystocia. After the baby’s head has been birthed, sometimes their shoulder can get stuck behind their mother’s pubic bone. This is known as shoulder dystocia and can make the baby’s head go back into the birth canal. If not handled properly, this can cause Erb’s palsy because the baby’s neck is stretched and can be injured.
- C-Section. Even with cesarean sections opposed to natural births, the baby can suffer from a birth injury like Erb’s palsy. Even though a C-section creates a larger space for the baby to come through, depending on how the baby comes through the opening, they can still get injured if they’re not properly removed by the doctor. If they use too much force, or if they don’t angle the baby correctly, they can suffer from a neck or nerve injury.
In a lot of cases, immediate treatment can resolve the injury. According to the journal Pediatrics & Child Health, there are a few methods that medical professionals use to treat Erb’s palsy. The main course of treatment is immobilizing the arm and shoulder during the first week after injury. Next, the doctors will do passive range of motion exercises to heal the nerves and recover movement in that limb.
Sometimes they will also use splints to fix the flexion of the wrist and hand. Electrostimulation was a method that used to be implemented to regain regular movement but has been proven to have little to no benefit for the injuries. The recovery process might happen quickly or slowly. Most babies recover full function, feeling, and movement in the affected arm with physical therapy and help from their parents.
If parents and doctors aren’t dedicated to passive range of motion exercises, then the baby might not recover full function of their arm that was affected. Even with dedication to exercises and treatment, the child could still never recover fully from the injury. Children who don’t receive enough treatment or whose injuries were too severe can end up with a weak limb or will be unable to lift the arm above a certain point.
When your child has suffered from this type of birth injury and it was the result of the doctor’s negligence, then you deserve justice for their wrongful actions. Our Baltimore Erb’s palsy lawyer can help your family recover the financial compensation that you deserve for the stress and damages you and your baby experienced during birth. We understand that this is a vulnerable time for you and your family, which is why we’re here to guide you through the legal process and support you every step of the way.
Getting Help from a Maryland Brachial Plexus Injury Lawyer
If your child was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, Klumpke paralysis, or another type of brachial plexus palsy that you believe was caused by an injury sustained during the birth of your child and could have been prevented, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the doctor, nurse, hospital staff, or institution that allowed the mistake to occur. Most brachial plexus injuries can be prevented with proper care.
By filing a lawsuit against the responsible party, you may help the institution prevent further cases of negligence during the labor and delivery process. Your case will likely have a time limit in which you’re able to come forward, so it’s important to act quickly. To learn more, get in touch with the skilled and experienced Baltimore Erb’s palsy attorneys at Belsky & Horowitz, LLC as soon as possible.