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Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries

If your baby was born with an arm that doesn’t work, please contact our office.  Permanent obstetrical brachial plexus injury creating an Erb’s (or Klumpke’s) Palsy in your child is an avoidable injury.

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves arising from the spinal cord that innervates the arm.  A transitory brachial plexus injury is a stretching of nerves C3-7.  The baby’s affected arm is held in a “waiters tip” position for a few months and then returns to normal.  This injury results from the stretching of the brachial plexus nerves during a vaginal birth and could be from traction on the baby’s head, use of a vacuum extractor or forceps, or the baby’s posterior shoulder getting caught on the coccyx.  It can occur in the absence of negligence on behalf of the doctor.

Permanent brachial plexus injuries are different from temporary brachial plexus injuries.  Permanent brachial plexus injuries result when some or all of the cervical nerves are torn or avulsed from the spinal cord.  These injuries occur because the physician exerted excessive traction on the baby’s head during delivery.  Children with this injury are left with a serious, lifelong disability.

Brachial plexus birth injuries are most commonly caused when there is a shoulder dystocia during the delivery.  Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s shoulder gets hung up on the mother’s pubic bone.  Shoulder dystocia occurs most commonly because the baby’s shoulders are broader than the mother’s pelvis.  The larger the baby, the more likely it is that a shoulder dystocia will occur.  Large or “macrosomic” babies are most common in women with uncontrolled gestational diabetes mellitis.

If your child has a permanent brachial plexus injury, the doctor may be held accountable in 5 situations:

  1. The doctor failed to implement appropriate medical interventions to control gestational diabetes mellitis.
  2. The doctor failed to diagnose macrosomia.
  3. The doctor knew or should have known your baby was macrosomic and failed to offer a C-section.
  4. When confronted with shoulder dystocia during vaginal delivery, the doctor failed to properly perform appropriate maneuvers to safely delivery the baby without injury.
  5. For family practitioners or pediatricians, the doctor failed to diagnose brachial plexus injury and refer the child for appropriate neurosurgical intervention.

If your doctor has permanently injured your child, please call McCutchen & Sexton – The Law Firm at (479) 783-0036.  We look forward to hearing from you.

J. R. Baber, MD, JD