Skip to Main Content

What is a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury?

Most deliveries happen without a hitch. However, some births are more traumatic than normal. A careless obstetrician can injure a child in the act of delivery, but symptoms might not show up for a considerable amount of time.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located between the neck and shoulders. These nerves play an important role in how the shoulder, arm, hands, and chest function. When they are damaged, a child can lose proper function, muscle control, and sensation. Contact a Miami birth injury lawyer if you have questions.

How Delivery Can Injure the Brachial Plexus

In an aggressive delivery, a doctor could pull on the child’s arm or shoulder in such a way that the nerves are damaged. In other situations, the child’s shoulder might be stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone, which exerts pressure on the brachial plexus nerves with each contraction. A doctor who acts swiftly and appropriately can often prevent injury. However, damage to the brachial plexus occurs more frequently than many people realize—up to 3 out of 1,000 births.

The nerves can suffer different types of damage, including stretching or tearing. The tearing can also occur in different locations, either where the nerve root attaches to the spinal cord or in a different location.

A stretched nerve is called neurapraxia and, according to Boston Children’s Hospital, is the most common form of brachial plexus injury. In many cases, the nerve will heal within a few months.

A ruptured nerve can present unique problems depending on where the nerve was torn. If it was torn at the nerve root—where the nerve attaches to the spinal cord—then surgical repair is not possible. A child with this type of avulsion injury can suffer problems with breathing and droopy eyelids. The only way to recover might be a nerve transplant. However, if the nerve is torn at a different location, then surgical repair is often possible.

Signs Your Child Has Suffered a Brachial Plexus Injury

A minor injury might not be apparent. Babies cannot talk to express their feelings, and parents might overlook signs that the child has arm or hand weakness or is feeling pain. With a very minor injury, the condition could improve on its own before parents know something is wrong.

With a serious injury, however, symptoms are more apparent. As mentioned above, a baby could have difficulty breathing. The arm could also be in an awkward position, or your child might never move the affected arm.

We Can Review Your Case

A doctor can order different tests to identify problems, including a nerve conduction study or MRI. Parents who are informed that the brachial plexus is injured in some way should contact a Miami medical malpractice attorney at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP by calling 305-371-2692. We can review whether you are entitled to compensation.