The Effects Of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Shoulder dystocia is a frequent cause of brachial plexus injury. This obstetrical emergency occurs when a baby's shoulder becomes wedged behind the mother's pubic bone after the head has come through the birth canal. Improper response by the doctor, such as excessively pulling on the baby's shoulders or failing to use standard safe delivery techniques, can cause the brachial nerves to stretch or even tear.

Crandall & Pera Law understands the terrible impact a brachial plexus injury can have on a child, including physical limitations that make it impossible to engage in many sports or play most musical instruments, in addition to the associated psychological pain. Our team of medical malpractice attorneys, registered nurses and legal staff has helped families throughout Ohio and Kentucky obtain fair compensation for newborns afflicted by long-term or permanent loss of limb function due to negligent labor and delivery practices.

Why Brachial Plexus Injuries Are Serious

A brachial plexus is one of the pair of nerve networks (the brachial plexi) that carry impulses from the brain, via the spine, to the right and left shoulders, arms, and hands. Each plexus is located at the base of the neck, between the collarbone and armpit; its branches extend from there down the arm, elbow, forearm and hand. Injury to either of these networks, such as by stretching, tearing or compression, can leave the entire arm it serves paralyzed, without function or sensation.

The National Institutes of Health recognizes four categories of brachial plexus injury:

  • Neuropraxia. The most common type, in which the plexus has been stretched but not torn.
  • Rupture. The nerves tear but remain attached to the spinal column.
  • Neuroma. The brachial plexus nerve tears and heals itself, but scar tissue presses on the nerves and limits control or mobility in the shoulder, arm, wrist or hand.
  • Avulsion. The most severe type, in which the nerve is torn from the spinal column.

Children with neuropraxia may need only physical therapy to regain use of a limb; however, children with avulsion or rupture injuries most often need surgery to repair the damage. If surgery is not performed in time, or is unsuccessful, the result can be permanent paralysis of the arm. In avulsion cases, full recovery may be impossible.

Erb's Palsy And Klumpke's Palsy

Erb's palsy is paralysis or weakness of the arm muscles caused by damage to the brachial plexus. Its most common cause is excessive pulling or stretching of the fetal head and neck in opposite directions during a delivery in which there is shoulder dystocia. The paralysis can affect any or all of the muscles that control the shoulders, the hands or the arms.

Klumpke's palsy results from injury to the lower part of the brachial plexus, and affects muscles of the forearm, wrist and hands. Like Erb's palsy, it is most commonly caused by excessive pulling or stretching of the fetal head and neck in opposite directions during delivery.

Brachial plexus injuries can affect a child and his or her family for a lifetime. Victims of these injuries may require multiple surgical or therapeutic treatments. They may experience pain and suffering in the process, only to find that the best outcome they can expect will still leave them with partial or complete loss of limb function.

Support For Affected Families

It is an uphill battle to obtain fair compensation for a child's injury after medical malpractice occurs. Please call 855-444-6651 or fill out our contact form to set up a free initial consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. We have offices conveniently located across Ohio and northern Kentucky.