New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyers

Brachial Plexus Injuries

Brachial plexus birth injuries are one of the most common types of birth injuries, affecting thousands of newborns each year. These injuries occur when an infant’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery, resulting in nerve damage. Often these injuries are caused by the negligence of medical treatment providers.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerve tissue at the spinal cord located near the neck. This system of nerves travels behind the collarbone down and branch out down the arms, generating movement and feeling in the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.

Causes of Brachial Plexus Injury

Generally, injuries to the brachial plexus often occur during a difficult delivery. For example, when a baby is too large for the birth canal or presents as breech, the neck can be stretched too far, damaging the delicate nerves. If complications occur during the birth process, and the medical provider must exert force to pull the baby from the birth canal, the nerves may be torn or damaged.

Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Some common types of brachial plexus injuries include:

  • Avulsion – In avulsion injuries, the nerve has torn away from the spinal cord at the attachment point. Rehabilitation from this type of injury may be possible, but it generally requires surgery. A donor nerve graft can be spliced from another nerve of the child. Spinal cord avulsions cannot be repaired.
  • Erb’s Palsy – Also referred to as brachial plexus palsy (BPP), this is the most common type of brachial plexus injury, and involves damage to the upper nerves. Infants affected by this type of injury may not be able to move their shoulders, but may be able to move their fingers.
  • Global palsy – A global or total brachial plexus injury is more severe than an Erb’s palsy type of injury to the upper nerves. Infants affected by a global brachial plexus injury are unable to move their shoulders or their fingers. This type of injury is generally accompanied by a total loss of sensation in the arm.
  • Klumpke’s Palsy – This involves an injury to only the lower brachial plexus nerve. Infants affected by Klumpke’s Palsy are generally unable to move their wrists, fingers, or hands.
  • Neuroma – This type of injury results in scar tissue that interferes with communication between the brachial nerves and surrounding muscle groups. The tissue presses on healthy nerves surrounding the area. Some recovery, though not total, is often possible with this type of injury.
  • Neuropraxia – This can happen when the nerves are overextended during delivery, but not torn. These injuries often heal on their own, generally within three months. Adults can also suffer from neuropraxia. It is a relatively common sports injury.
  • Rupture – In rupture injuries, the nerve tears at a point other than the spinal cord attachment. This is a severe injury, and will not heal on its own. In some cases, a nerve graft may help to restore some mobility.
  • Shoulder dystocia – This occurs when a newborn’s shoulders get stuck or lodged in the mother’s birth canal. One risk factor for this type of injury is macrosomia, when a newborn is very large.

Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Injury

Symptoms of brachial plexus injury can include a weakened grip on the side of the body that has been affected; full paralysis; partial paralysis; limp arm on one or both sides; hands that appear claw-like; and/or a weak Moro reflex in newborns. In some children, the affected arm will be smaller than the healthy arm. The size difference often becomes more pronounced as children grow older.

Prognosis and Treatment

Most newborns with brachial plexus birth injuries recover on their own, but need frequent medical visits to ensure that recovery is going well. Full recovery can take up to two years. More severe injuries may require daily physical therapy and possibly surgery, which may involve a nerve graft or nerve transfer.

Why You Need an Experienced Brachial Plexus Lawyer

Treatment for birth injuries can be costly. Depending on the severity of the injury, the part of the nerve that was damaged, and costs associated with rehabilitation, you may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses; medication; physical and occupational therapy; additional educational costs associated with an IEP or private schooling; in-home treatment; lost wages; and in some jurisdictions, compensation for pain and suffering and/or punitive damages.

New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP Get Justice for Victims of Medical Mistakes

If your child suffered an injury to their brachial plexus during birth, our team at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP can help you get the answers and compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated New Jersey birth injury lawyers, call us at 732-777-0100 or contact us online. With offices located in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank, New Jersey, we proudly represent birth injury victims throughout the region.