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Brachial Plexus Injury

Understanding a Brachial Plexus 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 at birth occur when these nerves are damaged during vaginal or operative vaginal delivery. These types of birth injuries are often referred to as birth-related brachial plexus palsy or obstetric brachial plexus palsy.
A newborn 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 infant’s brachial plexus nerves stretch or tear, injuries to these nerve bundles may occur, resulting in a brachial plexus injury at birth.

Are There Different Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries?

There are different types of brachial plexus injuries. These injuries depend on the extent of trauma done to the nerve.
  • Neurotmesis is the most severe and least common. It 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.
  • Axonotmesis occurs when the nerves are partially damaged. Though not as severe as a neurotmesis, axonotmesis can be significant and irreversible.
  • 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. Neuromas 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.

What Are Some Symptoms of a Newborn Brachial Plexus Injury?

Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury in a newborn include:
  • Little to no movement in the affected arm
  • Absence of Moro reflex in the affected arm (infantile reflex involving spreading and unspreading of the arms, and often crying)
  • Numbness
  • Claw-like hand

What Options Are Available for an Infant’s Brachial Plexus Injury?

Treatment options depend on several factors. These factors include:
  • Type of injury
  • Severity of the injury
  • Amount of time that has passed since the injury occurred
When a brachial plexus injury occurs during the labor and delivery process, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim against the healthcare provider that delivered your baby. Compensation you may receive from a brachial plexus birth injury lawsuit may help you pay for expensive treatment or surgeries to repair a brachial plexus injury as well as therapy. It does not cost you anything to speak to our Chicago birth injury law firm about your potential case.

Contact a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Lawyer From Our Firm About Your Potential Claim

If you believe your child has suffered from a brachial plexus injury or suffers from Erb’s palsy, please contact a Chicago brachial plexus injury attorney from our firm. A brachial plexus injury lawyer from our firm may be able to help you.
Call us at (877) 262-9767 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We represent families nationwide and have offices in Chicago IL, Baltimore MD, New York NY, and Wilmington DE.