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Understanding the Issues – Horner’s Syndrome Among Newborns

During labor and delivery, families rely on physicians to act with great judgment and caution. They are responsible for the wellness of brand new lives and any mistake can make the difference between life and death. When poor decisions are made, mothers and babies can face a variety of medical injuries. Horner’s Syndrome is a condition in newborns where the cluster of nerves running from the brain to the face and eye are interrupted, causing facial injury. Also called oculosympathetic palsy, the syndrome affects about one in every 6,200 babies, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Signs and Symptoms

Horner’s Syndrome is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms:

Generally, the condition only affects one side of the face.
The upper eyelid droops down over the eye.
Disproportionate pupil sizes result from a constricted pupil within the affected eye.
The affected eye may constantly appear bloodshot.
The affected eye may look as though it is sunken in its cavity.
The baby may appear to have different color eyes due to a lightening of the iris in the affected eye.
There is an absence of any perspiration on the affected side of the face.

Horner’s Syndrome is not a disease in and of itself and, though its symptoms are undesirable, the NIH reports that it does not negatively affect general health or the baby’s ability to see. However, the underlying nerve damage may prove extremely dangerous and even life threatening. For this reason, treatment of Horner’s Syndrome generally focuses on the nerve injury.

Birth-Related Causes

There are several birth related situations that can cause Horner’s Syndrome:

During a vaginal breech birth, the doctor may pull the baby from the birth canal with too much force, causing damage to the nerves.
During a difficult birth, the physician may choose to use forceps or a vacuum to assist in the delivery process. Forceps are often misused, resulting in extensive injuries. In this situation, the doctor may depress the neck with the instrument, injuring the sympathetic nerve and causing damage to the face and eye.
Horner’s Syndrome is sometimes misdiagnosed as Erb’s Palsy. This can exacerbate the situation because physicians may work to correct the wrong underlying issue, further delaying treatment and relief from the symptoms of the condition.

When these incidents occur, the courts may find malpractice on the part of the physician. Treatments for the underlying causes can be time consuming, painful for the baby and extremely costly for the family of the affected child. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, families can work to secure the compensation that their baby deserves, by holding doctors and medical centers responsible for any actions that may have led to the condition.

If your baby was born with Horner’s Syndrome and you believe the physician is at fault, contact the attorneys of Levin & Perconti for help.

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