What is Brachial Plexus Palsy?
Brachial Plexus Palsy is a birth injury caused by complications during delivery resulting in damage to the bundle of nerves located in the newborn’s shoulder area. This area, called the Brachial Plexus, is a network of nerves that sends signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. When these nerves are damaged during delivery, it can result in a mild and temporary, or severe and permanent birth injury, depending on the extent of damage.
Brachial Plexus Palsy is also known as an Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury or OBPI, Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy.
Causes of Brachial Plexus Palsy
Brachial plexus palsy can happen during birth when excessive pulling is used to bring the baby through the birth canal during a complicated delivery. This type of birth injury typically occurs during a birthing emergency known as shoulder dystocia, when a baby’s shoulder becomes lodged under the mother’s pelvic bone. Brachial Plexus Palsy can also be caused by excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head first delivery.
While birth complications cannot always be foreseen and prevented by medical professionals, these doctors have a duty to exercise caution and prudence when handling birth complications. In many cases, brachial plexus palsy birth injuries are the result of negligence or careless mistakes on behalf of a medical professional. In these situations, it may be possible for the family of the injured child to seek help covering the ensuing medical costs, other losses and suffering.
If you would like to learn more about what legal help may be available to those who have developed brachial plexus palsy due to medical negligence, please contact us today.
Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Palsy
The symptoms of brachial plexus palsy often depend on the severity of damage caused to the nerves. These symptoms do, however, develop soon after the birth injury has occurred and often follow a common pattern. It is important to seek immediate medical care if your child exhibits the symptoms of brachial plexus palsy in order to prevent further nerve damage or degeneration.
Symptoms of brachial plexus palsy include:
- limp or paralyzed arm
- lack of muscle control in the arm, hand owrist
- lack of feeling or sensation in the arm or hand
With certain injuries, a child may develop a droopy eyelid on the same side of the body where the brachial nerve damage has occurred. This is called Horner’s Syndrome.
Severity of Brachial Plexus Palsy
The severity of a brachial plexus injury is determined by the type of damage done to the nerves. The following are the types of brachial plexus palsy injuries, classified on the basis of severity, from mild to severe.
- Stretch (neuropraxia): The most mild and temporary, this type of brachial plexus palsy is where the nerves are just stretched but not torn. This type of brachial plexus palsy injury involves damage to the protective exterior of the nerve, but doesn’t usually damage the nerve itself.
- Rupture: This type of brachial plexus injury causes the nerves to be stretched beyond their limitations to the point of partially or fully tearing. When partially torn, the nerves will often try to grow back together. In some cases, when a ball of scar tissue (a neuroma) forms on the healing nerve, surgery is required.
- Avulsions: This is the most severe type of brachial plexus injury, in which the nerve has been completely severed from its spinal socket. This type of brachial plexus injury is often permanent, though some surgeons have been successful in reattaching these severed nerves to other intact nerves.
Effects and Complications
- Stunted growth in the affected arm, from the shoulder to the fingertips
- Impaired muscular development, causing the affected arm to be much weaker and have a smaller range of motion compared to the healthy arm; can also involve elbow contracture
- Inhibited circulatory system development – this can prevent the adequate regulation of temperature in the affected arm, which can be a problem in colder climates
- Skin healing delays and infection – inadequate circulation to the affected arm can result in slower healing rates for the skin. This increases the risk of infection.
- Permanent loss of sensory perception/paralysis
Brachial Plexus Palsy Treatment
In many cases, children with brachial plexus palsy heal without intervention over the course of 3 to 4 months. However, in many cases, surgery is necessary to help mend the damage to the brachial plexus nerves caused during the complicated birth. Brachial plexus palsy treatment also includes physical therapy, which can help to return normal function, muscle tone, range of motion, and strength into the affected arm.
Getting Help with Brachial Plexus Palsy
If your child developed brachial plexus palsy due to birth complications, it is a good idea to speak with a qualified legal professional who can determine if you are eligible to seek compensation for your medical expenses, losses and additional suffering. Please contact the experienced birth injury attorneys at Injury Lawyer Omaha to learn more about your legal rights and options.
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