One of the most common injuries that can occur during birth is a brachial plexus birth injury. Brachial plexus injuries occur when the nerves that run from the spine to the collarbone and throughout the shoulder and arm are torn or stretched. Understanding what causes these injuries and how they should be treated is the first step toward protecting your baby. Equally important is knowing when you should reach out to a personal injury malpractice attorney to help you pursue a personal injury case.
How Do Brachial Plexus Injuries Happen At Birth?
Brachial plexus birth injuries are typically the result of the baby's head being pushed upward away from the shoulder while the shoulder is being pressed downward. Sometimes, these injuries are the result of a breech delivery or a lengthy, difficult labor. In other situations, these injuries can occur if the doctor is trying to dislodge the baby's shoulders around the pelvic bone during delivery.
When the baby's head is free and the shoulders are caught behind the pelvic bone, the doctor handling the delivery has nothing more than the infant's head to use as leverage to slide the shoulders free. The pressure that this can cause on the nerves may actually lead to stretching or tearing. In some severe situations, it can actually separate the nerves from the spinal area.
What Are The Symptoms Of Brachial Plexus Injuries?
In the mild cases, the symptoms typically show as mild weakness in one arm or minimal movement in that hand and arm. More severe cases can cause a loss of feeling in the affected limb or a complete inability to use the arm at all.
How Are Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries Treated?
The treatment options for brachial plexus birth injuries are as varied as the degrees of the injuries. Mild injuries can heal on their own with some doctor supervision and examinations to ensure that the nerves are healing properly.
Even in these minor cases, though, physical therapy is a daily necessity to ensure proper healing. Physical therapy is the most common non-surgical treatment option for these injuries. During physical therapy, the specialist works with you to help you move your child's arm properly. The goal of this therapy is to keep the arm, shoulder and hand as limber as possible and to keep the muscles working correctly while the nerves heal.
If the doctor opted to monitor the recovery with minimal intervention and there is insufficient improvement based on the expectations that he or she had, there may be need for surgical intervention. In those situations, surgery is usually not considered until several months after birth to give the nerves time to recovery on their own. If surgery is necessary, it starts with exploratory surgery to see how the nerves can be restored.
In the most severe cases, when the nerves are physically separated, surgery will be necessary for any kind of functional recovery. In the case of severe injuries, it often requires multiple surgeries before there's any movement restored in the arm.
When Should You Consider A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Although some instances of brachial plexus birth injuries are unavoidable, there are many risk factors that your doctor should acknowledge before delivery. The risk of these injuries is greater when you have gestational diabetes or a large baby. There's no single weight range to consider, though, as "large" is relative to your body structure.
Additionally, if you have a history of deliveries with this type of injury, your doctor may need to consider a caesarian section delivery instead. Failure to do this may be considered medical malpractice on the part of your doctor if the baby is injured during delivery. There are several other medical options to encourage a safe delivery if your baby's shoulders get stuck, and if your doctor fails to try anything other than physically pulling on your baby's head and shoulders, that's also potentially justification for a personal injury suit.
If your child suffered a brachial plexus birth injury, even a minor one, you can learn more by calling a personal injury attorney who specializes in birth injuries. He or she can not only step in to offer you legal support during the recovery, but can also help you gather information in case you need to take the case to court. If your child was injured due to errors during delivery, you may want to consider a personal injury lawsuit.