Brachial Plexus Palsy

Approximately 1 to 2 babies in 1,000 suffer Brachial Plexus injuries at birth. Many are preventable injuries.

A Brachial Plexus injury is an injury to the nerves that control muscles in the shoulder, arm, or hand. Any or all of these muscles may be partially or fully paralyzed as a result of the injury. The extent of your child’s disability depends on which nerves are injured and the severity of the damage.

Possible symptoms of Brachial Plexus injuries include:

  • no muscle control and/or no feeling in the arm or hand
  • little control over the wrist and hand.
  • inability to use the shoulder or elbow muscles
  • a limp or paralyzed arm

There are 4 types of Brachial Plexus Injuries:

    1. Neuropraxia or Stretch injuries that range from mild neuropraxia with early recovery to complete paralysis with no potential for recovery, depending on the amount of stretching. The nerves will often be compressed from swelling and bruising from the shoulder being caught.

    2. Neuroma injuries involve scar tissue (that has developed as the injure nerve has tried to heal itself) compressing the nerves and preventing the nerve from conducting signals to the muscles. This type of Brachial Plexus injury may require surgery to restore function.

    3. Rupture injuries involve the nerve being torn at several locations (but not at the spinal attachment) and require surgery and therapy to restore normal function.

    4. Avulsion injuries are when the nerves are pulled from the spinal cord. This is the most severe type of Brachial Plexus injury and requires extensive surgery including a possible muscle transfer to restore function.

Often the diagnosis is more complicated than one of the four groups above. For example, sometimes many nerves in the Brachial Plexus may be injured and the nerves may have different types of injuries.

Although a Brachial Plexus injury can occur at any time, most Brachial Plexus injuries happen during birth. During the strain of childbirth, the shoulder of the baby can get caught and stretched behind the Pubic Symphysis bone (part of the Pelvis bone). If the shoulder is caught, the Brachial Plexus can be compressed, stretched or torn.

Below are some examples of negligent care on the part of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers that can result in Brachial Plexus injuries:

  • Failing to properly estimate the weight of the baby.
  • Failing to determine that the baby’s shoulders are too large to fit through the birth canal.
  • Applying excessive lateral traction to the fetal neck during delivery.

If your son or daughter has a brachial plexus injury and you suspect that the injury resulted because a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider failed to provide adequate care during the pregnancy, or during the labor and delivery of your baby, you should immediately contact a competent lawyer. The lawyer will be able to help you understand whether your son’s or daughter’s brachial plexus injury was the result of a health care provider’s negligence, in which case the lawyer will also be able to assist you in recovering compensation that can be used for your child’s care and education.