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What is a brachial plexus birth injury?

| Apr 27, 2021 | Birth Injuries

One type of birth injury occurs when a baby’s brachial plexus becomes stretched, torn or compressed during birth. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves located near the neck and shoulders. Because these nerves control function in the arms, shoulders, chest and hands, the baby may have problems with using these parts of the body. This injury could also affect the baby’s feeling in those areas. In Texas, you might have a medical malpractice case if your baby has a moderate to severe case of brachial plexus birth injury.

Types of brachial plexus birth injuries

The most common type of brachial plexus injury is stretching. Another term for stretching of these nerves is neurapraxia. The stretched nerves typically recover within three months.

Ruptures involve torn nerves and might require surgery to fix. When the nerve roots tear from the spinal cord, doctors call it an avulsion. Only about 10–20% of brachial plexus birth injuries are an avulsion. Your baby may need a nerve transfer in order to treat an avulsion. This type of brachial plexus birth injury might cause difficulty breathing because one of these nerves affects the diaphragm.

Neuroma occurs when the nerves don’t heal properly and the scar tissue applies pressure to the injured nerve or interferes with the nerves’ functions. Infants may need nerve reconstruction or secondary tendon transfers to treat neuroma.

Suing for medical malpractice

Brachial plexus birth injuries are common and aren’t necessarily an indicator of medical malpractice. However, it could be worth investigating if you suspect that medical malpractice took place and your baby has a moderate or severe injury. Brachial plexus birth injuries could result from doctors using too much force when helping with the delivery.

Another situation in which a doctor might be liable is if they failed to diagnose potential complications with labor that could have prevented a brachial plexus birth injury. Doctors should recommend a C-section if there are signs that the patient’s childbirth will undergo difficulties.

Brachial plexus birth injuries are common because the pulling that babies experience during birth can stretch the nerves in their head and neck area. The stretching may be so severe that it causes the nerves to tear. Mild forms of this birth injury are usually by chance. It’s when the injury is moderate or severe that there’s a greater likelihood of medical negligence being the cause.