What is a brachial plexus birth injury?

A brachial plexus birth injury is a common form of medical malpractice. An injury to the brachial plexus—the network of nerves between the neck and shoulders—occurs in roughly one to three out of 1,000 births. An injury like this most often occurs in difficult deliveries, when this network of nerves is stretched, compressed or torn.

A brachial plexus injury can affect all or part of this network of nerves. There are four types of brachial plexus injuries:

  • Stretch: In this most common and minor form, the nerve is stretched but not where it is attached to the spinal cord.
  • Rupture: In this common form, the nerve is torn but not where it attaches to the spine, causing some damage that may require surgical repair.
  • Avulsion: In this less common form and most damaging form, the nerve is torn at the spinal cord, causing damage that may not be surgically repairable. However, the nerve tissue may be surgically replaceable.
  • Neuroma: In this form, the nerve has tried to heal, but scarred tissue has formed, restricting its ability to perform properly. It may require surgical treatment.

A brachial plexus injury typically results in weakness in the shoulder and biceps—sometimes even in the forearm and hand, depending on the extent and location of the injury. Complete incapacitation of these areas can also result. However, recovery is possible in most cases.

What are your options as a parent?

If your child was injured during childbirth, you may have legal recourse. If a risk factor was present and the doctor opted not to do a Cesarean section, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim successfully. Risk factors include large fetus size, breech fetal position, use of forceps or too much force exerted on the infant during childbirth.

If you feel that a doctor—or even a nurse—exerted negligence, you have every right to pursue justice for you and your child.

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