The Long-Term Damage Caused by Brachial Plexus Injuries

The Long-Term Damage Caused by Brachial Plexus InjuriesThere are many causes of a brachial plexus injury including birth trauma, car accidents, sports accidents, falls, medical malpractice during surgeries, and even radiation therapy. While these types of injuries can sometimes heal on their own without treatment, they often require medical attention whether that means physical therapy, medications, or surgery. Many victims of this injury go on to experience long term effects such as weakness, loss of motion, numbness, tingling, chronic pain, shoulder blade deformity and even paralysis. Because brachial plexus injuries run the risk of being permanently debilitating injuries, it is important to seek  the counsel of a NJ medical malpractice or personal injury lawyer if your injuries were potentially the result of someone else’s negligence.

What is a brachial plexus injury?

The brachial plexus is a bundle or network of nerves located in the shoulder-neck region. These nerves are in charge of sending signals to and from the neck, shoulder, arm, and hands. This includes signals to move these muscles, and signals to the skin providing sensation in these areas. They control when you reach for something on a shelf or to catch a ball, or let you know you are touching something hot with your hand.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or in the most serious cases, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord.” There are several different types of brachial plexus injuries, and they can range from minor to severe. Minor brachial plexus injuries are often seen in contact sports. Conditions such as inflammation and tumors may cause damage to the area as well.

Severe brachial plexus injuries are usually a result of traumatic birth injuries or high impact injuries such as those suffered in bad automobile accidents, and can cause long term conditions such as paralysis, numbness, deformity and chronic pain. Surgery is often required in order to treat this type of injury.

What are possible long term effects of a brachial plexus injury?

Brachial plexus can be treated without complication or lingering symptoms, but in some cases, victims of this injury are left with life-long conditions that significantly affect their daily lives. Permanent conditions and symptoms of brachial plexus injuries includes:

  • Weakness and Paralysis. Brachial plexus injuries can severely damage nerves leading to loss of function.
  • Pain and Paresthesia. Nerve damage may result in pain that may never fully go away. It can also cause tingling and “electric shock” sensations.
  • With any sort of nerve damage, permanent numbness can be a long term condition. Keep in mind, with numbness in your hand or arm, you are more likely to suffer burns or injuries since you cannot feel pain or pressure there to alert you to imminent injury.
  • Muscle Atrophy. When the nerves are injured, they can take several years to heal. With lack of use, the muscles in that area may begin to deteriorate and break down.
  • Stiff Joints. Even if the injury fully heals, stiffness may remain in the joints. To help treat this, your doctor may recommend physical therapy.
  • Serious brachial plexus injury can cause disfigurement, including arm length discrepancy, uneven shoulders and shoulder blade (scapular) winging.
  • Permanent disability. Depending on many factors, including the type of brachial plexus injury, one’s age, and how severe the injury was, the rate and quality of recovery may vary. Some people may end up experiencing permanent limitations and consequences, even after surgery.

Why birth-related brachial plexus injuries can be so devastating

Special note should be made for the permanent conditions and disabilities that infants may suffer when suffering injury to their brachial plexus during childbirth. These conditions include:

  • Erb’s palsy. Erb-Duchenne palsy, or Erb’s palsy, is a condition caused when an infant’s brachial plexus is injured, often due to shoulder dystocia during birth. If the nerves are damaged severely enough, or are severed, this condition may be a permanent one. It causes weak muscles in the arms, disfigurement and instability in the shoulder joint.
  • Global palsy. Being the most severe type of brachial plexus birth injury, Niklaus’ Children Hospital describes it as presenting “with complete paralysis of the affected arm, without function in the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand.”
  • Horner syndrome. Injury to the brachial plexus during childbirth is one cause of Horner’s syndrome. Damage to these nerves can result in disruption in communication between the brain and the eyes, leading to problems with vision. It usually only affects one side of the face, and can also lead to an absence of sweating on that side of the face, and a drooping eyelid.

All of these conditions can affect the child long term and are caused by a traumatic birth or birth injury. It is caused when the infant’s head and brachial plexus are stretched too far upon leaving the birth canal. This may happen if the baby was too large for a vaginal birth or where the clinician exerts too much force on the baby’s head during the delivery.

Should I work with a New Jersey brachial plexus injury attorney?

If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during birth, you should contact a birth injury lawyer to discuss your options. It could be very likely that your child’s injury was caused by medical malpractice by the OBGYN team, and had you been better cared for, or different decisions were made by the doctor, your child may not have been injured in the first place.

If you received your brachial plexus injury due to a car accident or other type of accident where somebody’s negligence caused the collision, then you need to call a personal injury lawyer. Like in a medical malpractice case, you should not have to suffer more than you already must for someone else’s negligence.

If you have suffered a brachial plexus injury due to someone else’s actions and negligence, you should call Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP. Our team of dedicated lawyers have helped clients in New Jersey with their medical malpractice and personal injury cases. We have secured millions for our clients by fighting for them every step of the way, making sure they understand what is going on during the legal process. To schedule an appointment, call us or use our contact page. We proudly serve clients out of our offices in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank.