The brachial plexus is a group of nerve fibers that run from the spinal cord through the vertebrae of the neck and into the arm, influencing the nerves of the arm and providing movement and feeling in that area. Birth injuries involving the brachial plexus commonly occur during difficult deliveries where excessive stretching and force, or the use of tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors are used. While those are the most common causes, other factors involved in brachial plexus injuries include the weight and size of the infant, maternal obesity, and cases in which the infant’s shoulders are lodged in the mother’s pelvic area. Even without the use of birth-assistance tools, a doctor may apply too much pressure or force by hand, also resulting in a brachial plexus injury.
There are many types of brachial plexus birth injuries an infant can suffer from, which also range in severity and treatment options. Four of the most common types of brachial plexus injuries are Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, neuropraxia, and neuroma.
Erb’s palsy, depending on how the injury occurred, may not always be a serious injury. Some of its symptoms include paralysis, numbness, or loss of motor function in the affected arm. Just as the severity of this injury may vary, so does the manner in which it is treated. Massaging the affected arm may be helpful, but a serious case may require medications or surgery. Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower part of the brachial plexus nerves, impacting the hand, wrist, and arm of the affected area, sometimes resulting in a claw-like appearance in the hand. It is possible for this condition to clear up on its own, but like Erb’s palsy, it may require surgery in severe cases.
One of the more common and less serious injuries is neuropraxia – a minor strain or tear in the nerves, resulting in muscle weakness, numbness, or sensitivity in the affected area. This type of injury usually clears up within a few months. Lastly, neuroma is the growth of scar tissue over the brachial plexus injury, which exerts pressure on the nerve, affecting signals to the muscles. This can be minor and clear up without treatment, but in severe cases surgery may be necessary. Unfortunately, for most brachial plexus birth injuries, the more severe, the less chance the infant may have at a full recovery.
These are largely avoidable injuries, but it is estimated that they occur 1 to 3 of every 1,000 live births. At Fieger Law, we are experts in handling birth injury cases, having fought for the rights of injured babies, mothers, and families affected by this since 1983. Contact our law firm at 1-800-294-6637 for a free case review.