Injuries to the brachial plexus — a group of nerves originating in the neck and extending down through the shoulder and into the arm, wrist, and hand — can result from a number of causes during the birth process. Brachial plexus injuries can cause temporary or permanent paralysis, depending on the extent of trauma to the nerves. It can cause conditions known as Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, for which there are no known cures.
Brachial plexus injuries most commonly occur during difficult deliveries. In some cases, the infant’s shoulder becomes lodged against the mother’s pubic bone, causing stretching or tearing of the brachial plexus nerves. Your doctor should know how to recognize the signs of this birth complication and know how to handle it. Mismanagement of a complication, or a failure to recommend a C-section in a high-risk pregnancy, may constitute medical malpractice and provide grounds for a lawsuit.
The Hawaii birth injury attorneys at Davis Levin Livingston have extensive experience in litigation relating to brachial plexus injuries. If you or a loved one have sustained any type of injury during the birth process, an experienced attorney can assist you in pursuing the compensation to which you are entitled.
For a free review of your case, call (808) 400-7517.
Erb’s Palsy & Klumpke’s Palsy
In the majority of cases of obstetric brachial plexus injuries to an infant, the upper nerves are affected. The condition, known as Erb’s palsy, results in loss of mobility in the shoulder. However, some infants may retain the ability to move their fingers.
With Klumpke’s palsy, the lower brachial plexus is injured, resulting in loss of motion in the hand and wrist. When both upper and lower nerves stretch to the point of injury, the resulting condition is known as a total brachial plexus birth palsy.
Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
Four general categories of injuries to nerves can occur as the result of brachial plexus injuries during birth, and all can occur concurrently in the same child:
- Neurapraxia: This type of injury involves the stretching, not tearing, of the nerves and will typically heal on its own within approximately three months.
- Neuroma: This type of injury involves more severe stretching of the nerves that leads to damaged nerve fibers and scar tissue, which may press on healthy nerve tissue.
- Rupture: This type of injury involves a serious tearing of the nerve.
- Avulsion: This is the most serious type of nerve injury and occurs when the nerve is actually torn from the spinal cord. Avulsion injuries cannot be repaired, but some arm function may be restored by using nerves from a different muscle.
Brachial Plexus Injury Symptoms
All types of brachial plexus injuries are marked by loss of feeling, weakness, and complete or partial paralysis in one arm. They will vary in severity, however. The seriousness of the injury affects the recommended treatments and the degree to which a patient may recover.
In obstetric cases, a pediatrician typically makes a diagnosis based on a physical examination. The doctor may prescribe an ultrasound or another imaging method to determine the extent of damage to joints and bones in the shoulder and neck. This type of injury in an infant or child can impair the growth of the shoulder.
In more serious cases, nerves may sustain permanent damage, including rupture. In the most serious type of injury, avulsion, the nerve is torn from the spinal cord at its root.
Such injuries can cause permanent disability, and patients with even seemingly minor injuries should seek medical attention immediately. Treatment within approximately six months of an injury is critical, because delays can negatively affect the outcome of surgery.
Brachial Plexus Injury Treatment
In some cases, brachial plexus injuries heal without treatment. Many infants injured at birth recover by approximately three months of age. If your newborn has suffered an obstetric brachial plexus injury, your pediatrician should examine him or her frequently to ensure proper healing of the nerves.
For cases that do not heal on their own, recommended treatments include physical therapy and surgery. For Erb’s palsy, physical therapy may be required on a daily basis, and parents must manually work the infant’s muscles and joints using exercises prescribed by the pediatrician.
If the condition does not improve within the first six months, a doctor may suggest nerve surgery using specialized, small instruments and high-powered microscopes. Surgery usually does not fully relieve the results of the injury and may not help older infants.
Involve a Brachial Plexus Lawyer at Our Hawaii Law Firm
The site and severity of a brachial plexus injury will affect a patient’s chances of recovery. For avulsion and rupture injuries, timely surgery provides the only hope of recovery. Treatment can be extensive and expensive, and some children may require ongoing therapy or assistive devices. Our Hawaii brachial plexus injury lawyers are here to help you seek the financial compensation you need for your child’s complete and ongoing care. We know how to hold at-fault doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals accountable for their wrongdoing.
With history of record-breaking verdicts and settlements that extends over 40 years, Davis Levin Livingston is here to provide effective, compassionate counsel. Call (808) 400-7517 today.