Birth Injury Attorneys providing Assistance to Clients in Bridgewater, New Brunswick, Somerville and throughout Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, NJ
The brachial plexus is a cluster and network of nerves near the neck that are the root to all the nerves of the arm. These nerves serve the purpose of providing movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Damage to the brachial plexus birth causes arm weakness and loss of motion. Brachial plexus birth injury is an injury to the brachial plexus nerves that occurs in about one to three out of every 1,000 births, according to Boston Children’s Hospital.
The nerves of the brachial plexus may be stretched, compressed, or torn in a difficult delivery performed by inexperienced or inept doctors. The result may be a loss of muscle function or even paralysis of the upper arm.
Any type of brachial plexus injury will need to be diagnosed by a qualified pediatrician as soon as possible. This is critical given that the majority of infants with brachial plexus birth injuries can recover both movement and feeling in the affected arm, often with daily physical therapy exercises.
Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
The types of brachial plexus injuries can vary but include:
- involves the upper portion (C5, C6, and sometimes C7) of the brachial plexus. Children who suffer this injury will typically have weakness involving the muscles of the shoulder and biceps
Total Plexus Involvement
- represents approximately 20 to 30 percent of brachial plexus injuries. All five nerves of the brachial plexus are involved (C5-T1). Children with this injury may not have any movement at the shoulder, arm or hand.
- represents roughly 10 to 20 percent of brachial plexus injuries. The child may have ptosis (drooping eyelid), miosis (smaller pupil of the eye) and anhydrosis (diminished sweat production in part of the face).
- though very rare, involves the lower roots (C8, T1) of the brachial plexus. It typically affects the muscles of the hand.
Your child’s pediatrician will usually make the diagnosis of a brachial plexus palsy injury, based on the weakness of the arm and physical examination. Your doctor should then order an x-ray, ultrasound, or other imaging studies, such as an MRI, to discover if there is any damage to the bones and joints of the neck and shoulder. These types of nerve injuries can affect the growth and development of the shoulder. It may also be necessary to do some tests to learn whether any nerve signals are present in the muscles of the upper arm. These tests may include an electromyogram (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS).
It is critical for parents to understand the risks and potential lifelong damage that brachial plexus injury can mean for your child and make sure that all necessary tests are done regardless of the cost or resistance from doctors, hospitals or HMOs.
Liability for Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries
The brachial plexus can be damaged during labor and delivery in several different ways. Such as, if a child’s shoulder becomes lodged against the cartilage connecting the left and right pelvic bones. However, this injury commonly occurs when a doctor pulls down on the baby’s head to dislodge the shoulder from the cartilage. It is well known that unnecessary downward traction can easily strain the nerves in the brachial plexus and cause an injury. Furthermore, the use of a vacuum extractor or forceps may also cause an injury.
Though doctors and nurses should know never to use excessive force or downward traction to dislodge the baby’s shoulder, it is common medical practice. This practice goes unnoticed because in most cases it does not cause significant injury to the baby however the risk is ever-present.
Risk Factors during Pregnancy
Moreover, it is critical that doctors recognize risk factors during pregnancy. Larger babies are more likely to sustain birth injuries, so doctors should be especially careful while delivering a large baby. Additionally, shorter mothers or mothers with small pelvic areas are more likely to deliver a child with a brachial plexus injury. In addition, the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor can significantly increase your child’s chances of sustaining a brachial plexus injury.
If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury because a doctor or nurse pulled too hard during the delivery of your child or a vacuum extractor or forceps were used resulting in injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Get in Touch with a Somerville Medical Malpractice Attorney today
Attorney Brian Levine has recovered millions of dollars for his clients in the last three years, helping them rebuild their lives after injuries resulting from wrong-site surgery, wrong-patient surgery, negligent hospitals, emergency room errors, birth injuries, delays in treatment, misdiagnosis and more.
For more than 30 years he has provided professional advice and consultation regarding filing medical malpractice claims in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Bridgewater, New Brunswick, Somerville as well as surrounding communities. Please contact us online, or by phone through our Somerville, NJ office at (908) 524-0123 for a free and confidential consultation.