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Brachial Plexus Injury – Birth Injury

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that transfers signals originating in the cervical spinal cord (neck) to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. Brachial refers to the arm, while plexus refers to the branching network of nerves. These nerves provide movement and sensation to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers.

Brachial plexus injuries occur when these nerves are damaged during vaginal delivery. These types of injuries are often referred to as birth-related brachial plexus palsy or obstetric brachial plexus palsy. A brachial plexus injury is common when there is difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder through the maternal pelvis. This often occurs when a baby’s head is delivered and the shoulder becomes trapped against the maternal pubic bone. Such a scenario is also known as a shoulder dystocia. If the medical professional fails to anticipate a shoulder dystocia or applies excessive manipulation where the baby’s brachial plexus nerves stretch or tear, injuries to these nerve bundles may occur.

There are different types of brachial plexus injuries depending on the extent of trauma done to the nerve.

  1. Neurotmesis –the most severe and least common—occurs when the external continuity of the injured nerve is disrupted. An example is a nerve root avulsion, where the nerve root is torn away from the spinal cord. This type of injury is permanent and has no chance of recovery.

  2. Axonotmesis occurs when the nerves are partially damaged. Though not as severe as a neurotmesis, axonotmesis can be significant and irreversible.

  3. Neurapraxia occurs when the nerve has been stretched or compressed, but not torn. This type of injury typically has a favorable prognosis for recovery.

Sometimes, a neuroma can form as a reaction to nerve injury. Neoromas represent the scar tissue that builds around the injured nerve and can obstruct the nerve’s ability to send signals to the muscle.

Permanent damage, such as paralysis, numbness and weakness of the arm and shoulder can be consequences of a brachial plexus injury. These injuries often occur as a result of medical negligence and may not be detected until after a baby is born. If you believe your child has suffered from a brachial plexus injury or suffers from Erb’s Palsy, please contact us, our expert birth injury lawyers can help you. Call us at 877-262-9767 to discuss your situation.

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