What are Brachial Plexus Injuries?
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that originates at the spine and ends in the hand. These nerves are responsible for the sensations in your shoulder, arm and hand. They also control your movements. The brachial plexus is where you will find the ulnar nerve, the medial nerve and the radial nerve. People can experience brachial plexus injuries by playing sports or being involved in a traffic accident, but the most common cause appears to be difficult birth.
Causes of Brachial Plexus Injuries
During a difficult birth, the baby’s head may pull to one side while the shoulders are passing through the canal. This causes damage to the brachial plexus. Medical professionals can provoke this injury by pulling the baby by the shoulders during delivery. If pressure is applied to the baby’s raised arms during a breech birth, this can produce brachial plexus injuries. Brachial plexus injuries also occur when medical professionals use forceps during the delivery.
Mitigating the Risks of a Difficult Birth
Sometimes, healthcare professionals can anticipate when a delivery may be difficult. A very large baby often experiences a difficult delivery, but medical professionals can reduce the danger of the difficult vaginal birth by opting to perform a C-section. In other cases, the physician cannot pre-determine this. For example, babies are susceptible to brachial plexus injuries when they enter the canal with their feet first.
The Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Injury
Healthcare professionals should be able to recognize the fact that a newborn baby sustained a brachial plexus injury because the child will exhibit several symptoms. For example, the baby may not be able to move his hand or arm. Upon examination, the healthcare professional will discover that the Moro reflex is absent on one side. If the arm remains bent at the baby’s side, this is another clue an injury has occurred. Lastly, the baby’s grip may be weaker on one side than the other.
Treatment for Brachial Plexus Injuries
In some cases, the condition improves after several weeks or months, but those with severe injuries may need extensive medical care. A specialist may determine that the baby needs surgery.
If the child has not fully recovered from these injuries within a six-month period, parents receive a poor prognosis. In these instances, there may be a separation of the nerve root from the spinal cord, and surgery may not be able to fix this problem. When specialists are unable to correct the baby’s maladies, the child may experience abnormal muscle contractions permanently. The baby’s arm may remain partially or totally weak or paralyzed as he or she grows.
Have You Noticed Anything Unusual about Your Baby?
If you have noticed the above-described symptoms in your newborn baby, they may have been caused by a brachial plexus injury. Although it is possible for these injuries to occur without negligence, it’s also possible that the medical professionals involved in the delivery did cause your baby’s arm weakness or paralysis. If this is the case, the healthcare provider can be held accountable and forced to pay for the treatment your baby will need. Contact us if you would like to obtain more information about brachial plexus injuries and what you can do about them.
Resources on Brachial plexus injuries: