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Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial Plexus Injury? A Birth Injury Attorney in Cook County Can Help.

Brachial plexus injuries at birth are rather common. Approximately two to five such cases are reported in every 1,000 births in the U.S. The brachial plexus is a concentration of nerves at the top of each shoulder that control coordinated movement throughout the arm down to the fingers. During delivery, a baby may sustain debilitating injuries to these nerves, which could last a lifetime if the damage is severe. If a brachial plexus injury is the result of malpractice, then talk to a birth injury in Cook County.

Brachial plexus injuries occur when the baby’s shoulder is blocked by — or wedged into — the mother’s pubic bone during the birthing process, either due to improper positioning, or the opening in the mother’s pubic “saddle” is not wide enough for the baby to pass through. This complication is known as shoulder dystocia. If the birthing doctor or another member of the delivery team uses too much force in trying to extricate the baby, the brachial plexus nerve bundle can be stretched, resulting in the injury. Dystocia/brachial plexus injuries are also encountered in breech deliveries due to undue pressure on the baby’s neck and arms.

Though some brachial plexus injuries heal by themselves without treatment, severe cases can require lifelong medical care. They range in degree of severity and can lead to loss of movement or feeling, disfigurement and even paralysis. Many of the birth-related brachial plexus injuries we at Buttafuoco and Associates have seen were so dire that the victims had great difficulty performing normal tasks with their arms. If a birth-related brachial plexus injury occurs due to negligence in the delivery room, it is important for the victim to be compensated fairly.

Different Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries

With shoulder dystocia being the most common cause of all brachial plexus injuries, there are a couple of different ways in which damage to the injured victim’s arm is manifested.

  • Erb’s Palsy is the more common form of brachial plexus injury that involves partial or full paralysis to any portion of the affected arm. In extreme cases, disfigurement accompanies paralysis. Often, the injury can damage the spinal cord’s ability to send impulses normally to the brachial plexus nerves themselves.
  • Klumpke’s Palsy is a less severe brachial plexus injury, commonly affecting the lower arm, hand and fingers. Its common term is “claw arm,” and fewer of these occur than Erb’s Palsy. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Rare Diseases Research reports fewer than 200,000 people in the United States are afflicted with Klumpke’s. It is classified into four stages. From the least to most severe, they are neuropraxia, neuroma, rupture and avulsion. The least severe are the result of stretched nerves while the most severe involve torn nerves.

The only way to fully treat the most severe Klumpke’s and Erb’s Palsy – if possible – is prompt surgical reattachment of the nerves; if the physical damage to the limb itself is not so severe as to prohibit normal use. Stretched nerve damage might be treated without surgery, and only physical therapy could be necessary. But the chance of this particular outcome is more plausible with Klumpke’s Palsy than Erb’s.

When Medical Malpractice Causes Brachial Plexus Injures

Determining if Klumpke’s or Erb’s palsy was caused by medical malpractice is best left to your child’s pediatric neurologist; coupled with a thorough investigation by an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Recovery of damages from a birth injury lawsuit for medical malpractice negligence due to a brachial plexus injury can help families pay for their child’s surgical procedures, as well as a possible lifetime of treatment. Other damages that might be due include the child’s pain and suffering, and if warranted, the child’s diminished earning capacity throughout his or her life. If the doctor or medical professional’s negligence is willful or extreme, punitive damages might also be awarded.

If your baby suffered a brachial plexus injury during birth, Buttafuoco and Associates’ experienced birth injury attorneys offer a free consultation. Contact us anytime by calling 1-800-NOW-HURT, send us an email or fill out our online contact form.