Most babies are born without complications; however, some infants suffer injuries during birth. It is estimated that 6 to 8 out of every 1,000 newborns suffer birth injuries. These injuries include relatively minor injuries, as well as major, disabling medical problems. Of these injuries, some of the most common occur when there is damage to the brachial plexus during birth. Infants are particularly susceptible to suffering medical injuries because of improper handling or mistakes made during labor or delivery.
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that is located in the upper shoulder and neck area of the body. The nerves can be damaged when the area is pulled or pinched, such as can occur during a particularly difficult birth. When nerve damage happens it may be relatively minor and the child will eventually make a full recovery. Nerve damage may also be extensive. When the area is permanently damaged, permanent disability is the possible outcome. The child could have restricted movement of the shoulder, arm, and hand, as well as possible nerve problems that affect facial muscles. The problems are associated with the side of the body where the immediate damage happened.
Erb’s palsy is paralysis of the upper or lower arm. It significantly limits mobility in the extremity, essentially rendering the arm unusable. If the nerves were completely disconnected, there is little hope for improvement. Children who suffer from Erb’s palsy must undergo evaluation and physical therapy to determine the extent of the injury. Some children may benefit from surgery to repair the damage, however, this is not always a viable option.
What Causes Brachial Plexus Injuries in Newborns
A difficult delivery is one of the most common causes of brachial plexus injuries in newborns. Pulling or tugging too strongly on the infant by the doctor during birth can injure the baby. In situations where the baby is larger than normal or when the shoulders become stuck during delivery, can cause an increased concern for brachial plexus injuries. Doctors must properly evaluate the labor and delivery process and if a potential problem is noted, the infant may need to be delivered by cesarean section to protect the baby from possible harm.
Doctors are required to provide patients with a high level of care. Doctors and other medical professionals must take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of their patients. When a delivery becomes difficult, the doctor must determine the best option, which may mean performing an emergency c-section. If the doctor simply continues the delivery, complications are likely. When the baby is pulled forcibly, either by hand or with assistance of a forceps or vacuum, serious injuries are possible.
Mistakes made during delivery can turn a happy day into a tragic one for parents. Instead of bringing home a healthy infant, the child may be facing weeks, months, or years of treatment and disabilities. In cases where the doctor was negligent, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be necessary to seek compensation for damages sustained. If your infant was seriously hurt during birth, call the experienced legal team at Levin & Perconti to discuss your case.
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