Nerve Injuries to the Arm and Hand (Brachial Plexus Palsy)
Sometimes babies suffer nerve injury to their arm or hand during childbirth. The injury is called brachial plexus palsy. That means that the brachial plexus (the network of nerves related to the arms and hands, near the shoulder) is injured. This injury usually happens when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal after the head is delivered, and in trying to free the shoulder, the doctor or nurse causes a stretch injury to the nerve. This is also called shoulder dystocia. Then the baby can have trouble using the arm or hand. If swelling or bruising occurs around the nerves, movement of the arm or hand usually returns within a few months. But if the nerve is torn, permanent nerve damage may result.
The harder the pulling on the baby during the process of freeing up a stuck shoulder, the more likely it is to cause a significant nerve injury. Doctors and nurses are trained in gentle but effective techniques to free up a stuck shoulder, and if they fail to use them properly, a medical malpractice lawsuit could be appropriate, if the baby has permanent damage.
There are various ways to free the baby’s shoulder from underneath the mother’s pelvic bone without causing injury to the brachial plexus.
Risk factors for shoulder dystocia include gestational diabetes, obesity in the mother, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, macrosomia (a baby weighing more than 4000 grams or approximately 9 lbs.), a previous large baby, a post-term pregnancy, or a small pelvis.
If your child has brachial plexus palsy that interferes significantly with his or her ability to use the arm or hand, a legal consultation with an attorney could be appropriate. The attorney will review the childbirth records to determine what was done exactly to deliver the child and whether any inappropriate maneuvers were done. If you have video of the birth, that could provide significant evidence of what happened.
If a family member has suffered a permanent injury related to the childbirth process, we encourage you to contact us. We provide free consultations to help determine if you have a valid medical negligence or medical malpractice case that should be pursued. If you have already consulted with another lawyer or are in the process of doing so, we can offer information about how to evaluate whether you have obtained the right lawyer for your case.
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