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. Birth 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 birth injuries involve the brachial plexus, a bunch of nerves that lets us use 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 as to 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.
What Are the Implications of Brachial Plexus Injuries?
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.
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. To learn more, get in touch with the skilled and experienced Baltimore Erb’s palsy attorneys at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC as soon as possible. Your time to file a potential legal claim may be running out.