Brachial plexus palsy is a paralysis of the arm and shoulder caused by damage to a group of nerves in the shoulder called the brachial plexus nerves. This damage occurs during delivery in approximately 1 or 2 in every 1000 live births.
If your child was born with severe brachial plexus palsy, you are likely confused and searching for answers. You may not understand why your child’s caregiver does not recommend treatment or surgery to fix the injury right away. This is because approximately 75% of all brachial plexus injuries in newborns resolve themselves completely within the first few months of life. If your child shows no improvement in arm function by three months of age, your doctor should recommend further tests and treatments.
If your child’s injury persists after a few months, your doctor may recommend a surgical nerve graft or nerve transfer to try to restore function to your child’s arm and hand. These surgeries have been very successful at restoring some function and feeling, but the children will often have some permanent weakness in the shoulder or arm.
During surgery, the medical team will first examine the affected nerves to determine the severity of the damage. Nerves that are completely torn will not repair themselves. Stretched or inflamed nerves may repair themselves with time. Depending on the particular injury. The doctors may then perform a nerve graft, which involves taking a nerve from the child’s leg and using it to replace the damaged nerves in the shoulder.
Another option for the medical team is a nerve transfer. A nerve transfer involves moving undamaged nerves in the shoulder to innervate the areas that remain without the service of functioning nerves. In some circumstances, both a nerve graft and a nerve transfer may be performed.
After surgery, your child’s recovery may take up to a year. It is vital that you take your child to the recommended physiotherapy and occupational therapy appointments and do the prescribed exercises. Without therapy and exercise, your child’s arm may not recover fully, and it may not develop properly as a result. Children sometimes require additional surgery years later to fix bones and tendons that do not develop properly due to underuse.
While brachial plexus injury cannot always be prevented, it may have been caused by negligence among the medical staff that attended your child’s birth. Consult an experienced brachial plexus palsy lawyer to get the answers that you need.