Between your baby’s neck and shoulders is a complicated network of nerves known as the brachial plexus. These nerves control muscles and feeling in the, shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Most people don’t have to think too much about the brachial plexus. However, if your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury during delivery, you should learn about this network of nerves and about how to protect your baby’s recovery.
How a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury May Occur
A difficult or traumatic birth can result in a brachial plexus birth injury. If the baby is large, if the mother’s pelvis is small, or if a birthing tool such as a vacuum or forceps is used incorrectly, the brachial plexus nerves may be stretched, torn, or otherwise injured during delivery.
More specifically, one of four types of nerve injuries may occur, including:
- Neurapraxia. This occurs when a nerve has been stretched but not torn. This type of injury may heal on its own.
- Rupture. This occurs when the nerve is torn, but it is not severed from the spine. This type of injury may require surgery.
- Avulsion. This occurs when the nerve is torn from the spinal cord. It is a significant injury that can also involve nerves connected to the diaphragm which can impact breathing. Damaged tissue must be surgically replaced even if the nerve root cannot be directly repaired.
- Neuroma. This occurs when the nerve has tried to heal, but scar tissue has formed. The scar tissue may press on the nerve or interfere with the nerve’s functioning. Surgery may be required.
When one or more of these nerve injuries occur, your child may suffer a brachial plexus birth injury.
Different Types of Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries
Not all brachial plexus birth injuries are the same. Brachial plexus birth injuries include:
- Erb’s palsy. This injury, named after the doctor who first described it, impacts the upper part of the brachial plexus. Your baby will likely exhibit weakness in the shoulder and arm.
- Total plexus involvement. This involves all of the nerves in the brachial plexus. Your baby may not be able to move her shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers.
- Horner’s syndrome. A brachial plexus injury can cause a child to develop Horner’s syndrome. This condition results in a drooping eyelid, a smaller pupil in the affected eye, and decreased sweat production on one side of the face.
- Klumpke’s palsy. This affects the lower roots of the brachial plexus and can impact the hand muscles.
Your child’s doctor should diagnose your child’s specific type of brachial plexus birth injury so that an appropriate treatment plan can be developed.
Treatment for Brachial Plexus Birth Injury
Depending on your child’s specific injury, treatment for a brachial plexus birth injury may include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Botox injections
These treatments can be time consuming and expensive, and your child may still be left with a permanent disability.
Protect Your Child’s Future After a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury
There is no way to go back and undo the trauma your child has experienced, but there are ways to make your child’s future less traumatic. That begins, of course, with high-quality medical care. A prompt diagnosis and a properly implemented treatment plan are very important for your child.
Has Your Family Been Impacted By A Birth Injury?
If your family has been impacted by a birth injury you need to speak with an experienced birth injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.450.4456 to schedule a free consultation.