Injured at Birth: Brachial Plexus Injuries

The brachial plexus is a network of connected nerves between the neck and the shoulder. This complex group of nerves is responsible for controlling the chest, arms, and hands, as well as feeling in the upper limbs. 

What is a brachial plexus injury?

A brachial plexus injury happens when the network of nerves is stretched, torn, or compressed during the difficult birth of a baby. This type of birth injury occurs in 3 out of every 1,000 births and the result is often the loss of function or even paralysis in the muscles of the arms and hands. Approximately 53% of brachial plexus injuries are a result of shoulder dystocia, when the baby’s head is born, but the shoulders get hung up on the mother’s pelvic bone during birth.

Types of brachial plexus injuries:

Erb’s Palsy is a paralysis of the upper arm, which impacts the range of motion in the lower arm. 1-2 babies out of every 1,000 births are diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy. The most common cause is excessively pulling the infant’s head to one side during the birth. The good news is that most infants with Erb’s Palsy make a full recovery, especially if physical therapy begins within the first 4 weeks of life. 

Horner’s Syndrome is caused when the nerve pathway from the brain to the face is damaged, in this case during birth. There are 3 key symptoms of Horner’s Syndrome, one pupil that is smaller than the other, a droopy eyelid, and a decreased ability to sweat on the side of the face that is impacted. In many cases, the symptoms of Horner Syndrome will resolve or become less severe as the affected nerves heal. 

Klumpke’s Palsy is another brachial plexus injury, where the lower portion of nerves are damaged causing paralysis of the forearm and hand. Like Erb’s Palsy, Klumpke’s Palsy is usually a result of should dystocia or a malpositioned baby during birth. For nerve damage that doesn’t heal on its own, surgery may be an option to enhance mobility from Klumpke’s Palsy. 

If your child or a loved one has a brachial plexus injury as a result of a birth injury in Baltimore, contact Nicholas A. Parr Law today to discuss what course of action may be right for you.