Infant Nerve Injuries

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Infant nerve injuries refer to damage that occurs to the peripheral nerves of a newborn either during childbirth or shortly thereafter. These nerves are crucial as they connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, facilitating muscle movement and sensory functions. The occurrence of nerve injuries in infants is primarily associated with the physical stresses and strains that can happen during delivery, especially in complicated or prolonged labor situations.

Risk Factors for Infant Nerve Injuries

The majority of infant nerve injuries occur during the delivery process. The physical pressure and manipulation involved in assisting the birth, such as pulling or twisting, can place significant strain on the baby’s delicate nerve fibers. Factors that increase the risk include:

  • High birth weight or macrosomia, where the baby’s size makes it difficult to pass through the birth canal.
  • Breech deliveries, where the baby exits the birth canal feet or buttocks first.
  • The use of obstetrical instruments like forceps or vacuum extractors, which can exert pressure on specific parts of the baby’s body.
  • Prolonged labor, which can lead to sustained pressure on the baby’s body, increasing the risk of nerve damage.

Types of Infant Nerve Injuries

Some of the main types of infant nerve injuries include:

Brachial Plexus Injuries

These injuries involve the network of nerves that send signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. They are particularly common during childbirth, especially in cases of shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone. The injury can occur when there is excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head-first delivery or pressure on the baby’s raised arms during a breech (feet-first) delivery.

Symptoms may include a limp or paralyzed arm, lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist, and lack of sensation in the arm or hand. The severity can vary, ranging from mild bruising or swelling (neuropraxia) that heals quickly, to more severe cases where nerves are torn (rupture) or even pulled away from the spine (avulsion).

Facial Nerve Injuries

These injuries are most often caused by trauma during birth, such as the use of forceps or pressure against the baby’s face, which can compress the facial nerve. The facial nerve is crucial for controlling muscles used for facial expressions such as smiling, blinking, and frowning.

When injured, the baby might show symptoms such as an inability to close one eye, a lopsided smile, or no movement on one side of the face. These symptoms are usually noticeable immediately after birth. While many facial nerve injuries heal on their own within a few weeks, more severe cases may require physical therapy or surgery to correct the damage.

Phrenic Nerve Damage

This type of injury affects the phrenic nerve, which plays an essential role in breathing by controlling the diaphragm, the main muscle involved in breathing. Damage to this nerve can be caused by trauma during a difficult delivery or a neck injury.

Symptoms of phrenic nerve damage can include difficulties in breathing or an abnormal elevation of one side of the chest, which occurs as the diaphragm fails to move normally. Diagnosis might involve imaging studies or diagnostic tests such as ultrasound or electromyography. Treatment typically focuses on supporting the baby’s breathing, which may include mechanical ventilation in severe cases, and addressing the underlying cause of the nerve damage.

Contact Gray and White Today

If your baby has been impacted by nerve damage as a result of medical negligence, get in touch with us today. Call (502) 210-8942 or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.