Expectant parents trust that during the labor and delivery process, the medical team will take every precaution to ensure a safe and healthy birth. This includes anticipating and responding properly to emergencies and complications. When they fail to do so, and your child suffers a birth injury, you have the right to hold the negligent medical professional responsible. One of the more common birth injuries infants experience as a result of labor and delivery negligence is a brachial plexus injury.
What is the brachial plexus?
You might not even know what your (or your child’s) brachial plexus is until it’s injured. Johns Hopkins Medicine describes the brachial plexus as:
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that stems from nerve roots in the cervical (neck) and upper trunk (torso) sections of the spinal cord (C5-T1), creating a network that connects to the nerves in the arm. These nerves control the motions of your wrists, hands and arms, allowing you to raise your arm, type on your keyboard or throw a baseball.
The brachial plexus nerves extend to the skin and are sensory, too. For instance, they let you know that the pan you just grabbed with your hand is too hot to hold.
The nerves from the brachial plexus fuse through the shoulder and extend down the arm. The brachial plexus can be injured when it’s stretched, ruptured, or experiences too much pressure. This can happen during childbirth – sometimes naturally during the process, but it can also occur when a doctor or obstetrician is careless during delivery and exerts too much force on the baby.
What are the symptoms of brachial plexus injuries in babies?
Because babies cannot verbalize or convey their injuries, it’s up to their parents and caretakers to advocate for them. The Boston’s Children Hospital lists the following symptoms of brachial plexus injuries in infants:
- “muscle weakness or paralysis in the affected arm or hand
- decreased movement or sensation in the upper extremity”
They also note, however, that your baby may not be suffering from too much pain; although if the injury has caused a fracture, they may be experiencing discomfort. This is because an infant’s nerves work differently than adults. However, your child may still need medical treatment. Don’t rely on whether they are expressing pain or discomfort.
How do brachial birth injuries happen?
Many brachial plexus injuries that happen during labor and delivery are caused by medical malpractice. Doctors and other medical professionals involved with the birth process should anticipate complications involved with babies with a heavy birth weight, prolonged labor, or babies in the breech position. When a baby’s shoulders are stuck in the birth canal, a doctor can cause a brachial plexus injury if they don’t take proper care in attempting to free the baby.
The Boston Children’s Hospital notes the most common form of brachial plexus injuries in children is in the upper area, and is known as Erb’s palsy.
How are brachial plexus injuries diagnosed?
For brachial plexus injuries that occur during childbirth, your baby’s pediatrician should perform a full medical examination. Many infants with this type of injury recover on their own within a month or so. However, more serious injuries may require diagnosis from a specialist or orthopedic pediatrician.
Physicians may use imaging diagnostic tools like MRIs, nerve conduction studies, and if a fracture is suspected, X-rays. Your child’s doctor should track your baby’s treatment progress with several exams.
How do Las Vegas doctors treat brachial plexus birth injuries?
Although, as we noted earlier, many heal naturally over time, if your baby suffered a serious brachial plexus injury, they will require medical treatment and may experience long-term or permanent complications. Treatment for infant brachial plexus injuries include:
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Surgery, including nerve graft, osteotomy, tendon transfer, shoulder joint reduction, and muscle transfer
Per Boston Children’s Hospital, long-term outlook for infant brachial plexus injuries “depends on the extend of the injury and varies from patient to patient. Most children develop normal, or near normal, arm function without surgery. But not all children recover fully. For these children, surgery can improve strength and motion and support healthy development of their shoulder joint.”
As you can see, surgery can be not only expensive, but physically and emotionally traumatic for a very young child. It’s essential you work with a qualified attorney to ensure you have the right resources to care for your child and your family.
Who is liable for my child’s brachial plexus injury?
The Las Vegas birth injury attorneys at Claggett & Sykes work to identify all parties whose actions (or inactions) led to your baby’s injuries. Generally, these liable parties are your labor and delivery team – including physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and others. We also hold the hospital liable, especially in cases where negligent hiring is involved.
Our lawyers have decades of combined experience holding medical professionals responsible when they cause patients harm, especially the smallest and most vulnerable patients – newborns. If you believe your baby was harmed by medical malpractice during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, the Las Vegas birth injury attorneys at Claggett & Sykes want to help. We can work to secure compensation for your family, including medical bills, expenses, and pain and suffering.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation with a compassionate member of our legal team. You can reach us at 702-333-7777, or just fill out our contact form. If you’re located in northern Nevada, call our Reno injury lawyers at 775-322-2923.
We are not simply a personal injury firm. We are trial lawyers who take on catastrophic injury, brain injury, and wrongful death cases. These cases are different than most personal injury cases and the needs of these cases cannot be met by law firms that take on just any case.
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