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The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr.

Brachial Plexus Birth Injury | Shoulder Dystocia and Dislocation of Shoulder at Birth

Frank J. Dito, Jr.
Car accident, personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney serving Staten Island and Brooklyn New York.

A brachial plexus injury is a type of injury that occurs at birth.  This birth injury can cause weakness in a child's arm, numbness and can even cause permanent paralysis in a child after birth. So you may be asking how exactly does this happen especially when you received medical care throughout your pregnancy and had a sonogram done only a few weeks before the birth of your child and everything looked normal but now you are being told that your child has a brachial plexus injury and may have to suffer from the symptoms of this injury for the rest of their life.

Although not all brachial plexus injuries are grounds for a birth injury lawsuit some are.  Here are some things that can help you in determining whether or not you have a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who delivered your baby or the hospital.

What is a Brachial Plexus Injury and How Does This Injury Occur to an Infant?
A condition that brachial plexus injuries usually occur as a result of is shoulder dystocia.  Shoulder dystocia is a condition that occurs during the birth process when the infants shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother's pubic bone.  If this occurs during the birthing process it could cause permanent damage to the infants nerve tissues between the arm and the shoulder.  Shoulder dystocia is considered a high-risk birthing complication that can result in permanent damage and the secondary injury which is the brachial plexus injury, sometimes also known as obstetrical plexus injury.  These injuries can range in severity from a mild muscle stretch injury to a total seperation (avulsion) of the baby's nerves from their spinal cord.

Was There a Way Shoulder Dystocia or a Brachial Plexus Injury Could Have Been Avoided?
Determining whether or not your infant's brachial plexus injury was cause by negligence on the doctor or hospitals part can usually be determined by figuring out if the doctor took the necessary precautions and steps to avoid the shoulder dystocia injury.  Infants that are at high risk for shoulder dystocia are in cases where the pregnancy is beyond 40 weeks, if there is prolonged labor, short maternal stature, heavy maternal stature, maternal diabetes, high birth weight infant, breech birth or the use of a vacuum or forcepts during delivery. If any of these circumstances are present the obstetrician should take all necessary steps to avoid shoulder dystocia and ultimately will be able to avoid a brachial plexus injury.

What are the different types of Brachial Plexus Injuries and Which One Does My Child Have?
Brachial plexus injuries can be listing by the following four categories:

  • Avulsion Injuries -  The infants nerve is torn from the spine and completely seperated from the spinal cord.  This is the most severe type of brachial plexus injuries.
  • Rupture Injuries - Causes the infants nerve to have some nerve tearing but not seperation from the spinal cord.
  • Neuroma Injuries - Scar tissue surround the torn nerve of the infant which puts pressure on the injured nerve.
  • Neuropraxia Injuries - The covering of the infants nerve is damaged causing problems with nerve signal conduction. This type of brachial plexus injury is considered a stretch injury and the most mild out of the four types.

Are There Any Treatments Available for Brachial Plexus Injuries?
Surgical treatment may be necessary for babies born with severe cases of a brachial plexus injury.  Non-surgical treatments include physical therapy, botulinum toxin injections and electric stimulation.  Some babies with mild cases of a brachial plexus injury recovery on their own with no treatment by 3 or 4 months of age.  If a child does not show signs of recovery or shows slow signs of recovery by 4 months of age the child is less likely to recover completely for their brachial plexus injury.

What are Complete Brachial Plexus Palsy, Erb's Palsy, and Klumpke's Palsy and Does My Child Have Any of These?

  • Complete Brachial Plexus Palsy - Infant has complete paralysis of the shoulder, arm and hand
  • Erb's Palsy - Weakness in the upper arm due to a neuropraxia type of brachial plexus injury. Child may be unable to move their arm and/or fingers.
  • Klumpke's Palsy - Weakness or paralysis caused by a brachial plexus injury in the lower brachial plexus.  May cause limp wrist or fingers and may cause a secondary condition known as Horner's Syndrome.

I Believe My Child's Brachial Plexus Injury was Due to Medical Malpractice. What Should I Do?
If you believe your child suffers from brachial plexus palsy, Erb's palsy, Klumpke's palsy or a brachial plexus injury due to medical malpractice the first person you will want to talk to is an Birth Injury Lawyer or a Infant Injury Attorney regarding your brachial plexus injury case.  Although medical malpractice is not always the cause for brachial plexus injuries in infants it is possible that the injury could have been due to medical malpratice or medical negligence of either an obstetrician, physician, nurse, or caregiver and you may be able to start a birth injury lawsuit against the negligent party.  If you live in the New York area and wish to speak with an experienced injury lawyer contact Frank J. Dito Staten Island Birth Injury Lawyer to discuss your child's brachial plexus injury at 718-701-2776 or 800-310-5520 or fill out our short and easy web contact form.