Nerves make up the electrical wiring system that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Many nerve networks branch out from the spinal cord, including the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that starts at the spinal cord in the neck area and extends into the armpits and arms. Damage to the brachial plexus can impair the function of the arms and hands.
One of the most common causes of a brachial plexus injury is a problem during labor and delivery that causes nerve damage in the newborn.
A brachial plexus injury can be permanent or can require expensive and extensive corrections in surgery or other treatment methods. In many cases, the cause of a brachial plexus injury at birth is not simply bad luck. Rather, it is because a doctor or other health care provider failed the mother and baby in some way.
The New York and New Jersey birth injury lawyers at Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., represent people who have been injured by medical mistakes and errors. To find out what your legal options are, contact the firm now by calling 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) or use our online form. Consultations are free. We collect fees only if you win your case.
How Brachial Plexus Injuries Happen
The network of nerves that make up the brachial plexus is fragile and can be harmed as a result of stretching, pressure or severing of the nerves.
- Stretching can happen if the head or neck is forced unnaturally far away from the shoulder.
- Pressure can result if the brachial plexus is crushed between the first rib and the collar bone.
- Cutting or severing of the nerves can happen if there is severe stretching or if there are medical mistakes that result in the nerves actually being cut.
In many cases, it is a doctor who fails to live up to his or her obligations during childbirth that causes a brachial plexus injury. There are many kinds of errors made during labor and delivery that make brachial plexus a common birth injury. These include:
- Failure to respond properly to a breech birth. If a doctor is not able to turn the baby or does not order a timely Caesarean section, then the child’s brachial plexus could be severely damaged.
- Labor that goes on for too long, causing excessive pressure.
- A baby becoming lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone or stuck in the birth canal. This can cause excessive pressure and stretching if a doctor is not able to safely get the baby out.
- Using aggressive force in delivering a baby. A doctor who uses a vacuum or forceps or is otherwise aggressive in pulling the baby from the birth canal could damage the fragile nerves in the brachial plexus.
Unfortunately, doctors sometimes fall short of their obligations to patients, including newborn babies. When this happens, a medical malpractice claim could be an option for recovering compensation to cover the costs of corrective treatments and other losses.
The Consequences of a Brachial Plexus Injury
The consequences and symptoms of a brachial plexus injury depend on how severely the nerves were damaged and which nerves were affected.
If only the upper nerves were harmed, the victim of a brachial plexus injury may develop a condition called Erb’s palsy. Damage to the lower nerves in the brachial plexus can cause a condition called Klumpke’s palsy. If both the upper and the lower nerves were damaged, then the victim may develop total brachial plexus birth palsy. If the nerve damage happened directly in the spinal area, then the child may be diagnosed with an avulsion rupture.
Symptoms of a brachial plexus injury may include:
- Discomfort in the arm that feels like an electrical shock.
- A burning sensation in the arm.
- Muscle weakness in the arm or hand.
- Numbness in the shoulder, arm or hand.
- An inability to control or move the fingers.
- An inability to control or move the shoulder or arm.
- An absence of any feeling in the shoulder, arm or hand.
- Extreme pain in the neck, shoulder, arm or hands.
- Stiff joints.
- Muscle atrophy.
- The development of a neuroma, which is scar tissue that forms when nerves heal.
In some cases, brachial plexus injuries can be treated, and the symptoms may be reduced or eliminated. Some patients may have a nerve graft, which involves surgical removal of the damaged part of the brachial plexus and a transplant of undamaged nerve sections from other body parts. In severe cases, an entire nerve transfer may be necessary. This procedure involves transplanting a less-important nerve from another part of the body to replace the damaged brachial plexus nerve.
Nerves grow very slowly, so even if there is a nerve graft or a nerve transfer, it can take several years to heal well enough to regain movement. During this time, the muscles may begin to deteriorate or atrophy from lack of use. This means that a muscle transfer may be necessary to regain movement and control of the shoulder, arm or hands, even after a nerve graft or nerve transfer.
These surgical treatments can be costly, and a patient may need multiple surgeries in order to recover. Brachial plexus injuries can occasionally heal on their own with time and rest, but this is rarely the outcome when an infant suffers damage to the brachial plexus during the birthing process. In some especially tragic cases, even surgery will not be able to correct a brachial plexus injury, and the victim will suffer from discomfort and impairment for the rest of his or her life.
Contact Our New Jersey and New York Brachial Plexus Injury Lawyers Today
The birth injury attorneys at Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., can help families who have been affected by brachial plexus injuries that resulted from medical negligence. We have extensive experience evaluating and pursuing claims for children who have been injured by acts of medical malpractice and negligence. We work with pediatric and obstetric experts with a vast knowledge of neonatal and postnatal development in determining the causes of injuries and disabilities in infants and children.
If you are the parent of a son or daughter with a brachial plexus injury, please contact us for immediate attention at 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) or use our online form for a free consultation.