Horner’s syndrome is a disorder that occurs when the nerves between the brain and the face and eyes are damaged. A common cause of Horner’s syndrome is an injury that occurs during childbirth, damaging the nerves of the newborn.
If your child has been diagnosed with Horner’s syndrome, it is important to find out whether medical negligence played a role and whether you might be entitled to compensation if it did. 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.
With seven offices located throughout the New York and New Jersey metro area, the Ginarte law firm has an office near you with caring and experienced attorneys and support staff ready to help.
About Horner’s Syndrome
Horner’s syndrome is a disorder that affects the facial muscles and the eyes. The syndrome is a symptom of an underlying medical issue that has caused damage to the sympathetic nerves that, when functioning properly, allow the brain and face to communicate.
Horner’s syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms including:
- Ptosis (drooping of the upper eyelid).
- Slight elevation of the lower eyelid.
- Swelling in the lower eyelid.
- A sunken eyeball.
- A small pupil in the affected eye.
- An inability to sweat or decreased sweating on the side of the face that has the affected eye.
- An iris that is lighter in color in the affected eye than in the other eye.
Horner’s syndrome may develop as a result of trauma during birth, a stroke, a spinal cord injury or other injuries that damage the nerves. When Horner’s syndrome occurs in newborns, the condition is most often caused by a brachial plexus injury.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that is found at the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck. The nerve network’s primary function is to transmit signals to and from the brain to the shoulder, arm and hand. If the nerves are stretched, ruptured, scarred or pulled out from their roots in the spinal cord, a child can develop paralysis in the arm that is called Klumpke’s palsy, Erb’s palsy or a global brachial plexus injury. In cases where the nerve damage is severe, these other paralysis conditions may be accompanied by Horner’s syndrome.
A child who exhibits the symptoms of Horner’s syndrome will generally have problems with only one side of the face (the same side with the limited shoulder and arm mobility).
Treatment for Horner’s Syndrome
Horner’s syndrome is typically diagnosed as a result of visible symptoms. A patient who shows signs of Horner’s syndrome may undergo a pupil dilation test to see how the pupil responds to stimuli. A physical exam and the pupil dilation test are good indicators that a patient has Horner’s syndrome, but follow-up testing may also be performed, including an MRI or an X-ray to identify damage to the brachial plexus.
Horner’s syndrome treatment generally focuses on resolving the underlying medical problem. For example, if the child suffered a brachial plexus injury that caused Horner’s syndrome, then doctors may focus on helping the nerves to heal. While damaged brachial plexus nerves can sometimes heal on their own with time, surgery is often necessary, such as a nerve transplant or nerve grafting. In these procedures, a nerve or part of a nerve is taken from a less-important area in the body and used to replace or rebuild damaged nerves in the brachial plexus.
Even with surgical intervention, there are cases in which Horner’s syndrome is not treatable and a child will have the physical symptoms of the syndrome for the rest of his or her life. If Horner’s syndrome causes problems with a child’s vision, an ophthalmologist may monitor the patient and try to find solutions.
Responsibility for Horner’s Syndrome
Horner’s syndrome has many different causes, but a recent population-based study published in JAMA Ophthalmology indicated that 55 percent of patients with the condition had a congenital onset and 63.6 percent of the patients with congenital cases had a history of birth trauma.
Birth trauma may occur when a medical care provider fails to provide proper care for the mother and baby during labor and delivery. Health care providers may make mistakes that result in the brachial plexus nerves being stretched too far, or even being ruptured or torn from the spinal cord (this is called avulsion). Some of the types of medical negligence or errors that can damage the brachial plexus nerves and cause Horner’s syndrome include:
- Shoulder dystocia (the baby’s shoulder becoming trapped underneath the mother’s pubic bone during the delivery process).
- Aggressive force used during delivery, including the improper use of the forceps or vacuum that causes the nerves to stretch or sever
- Failure to respond to signs of fetal or maternal distress and/or to order a timely Caesarean section.
- Failure to properly respond to and deliver a breech baby.
When a difficult labor occurs and a child develops Horner’s syndrome, it is important to determine if the doctor or other medical care provider breached his or her obligation to provide reasonable quality care during the birthing process. If no reasonably competent doctor would have acted the same way, made the same omissions or made the same mistakes during delivery, then the doctor may be considered negligent.
Medical negligence can lead to medical malpractice claims against the caregiver, and the doctor or other health care provider could be held responsible for compensating the injured victims.
Contact Our New Jersey and New York Birth Injury Lawyers Today
The birth injury attorneys at Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., can help families who have been affected by birth injuries related to medical negligence. We have extensive experience evaluating and pursuing claims concerning 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 Horner’s syndrome or another birth injury, please contact us for immediate attention at 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) or use our online form for a free consultation.