Do You Have a Case if Your Newborn suffered a Brain or Brachial Plexus Injury During Delivery?

If your newborn baby suffered a brachial plexus or brain injury while being delivered (extracted), you may have a claim for medical malpractice if the medical team delivering your baby negligently caused it. Brachial plexus injuries can happen when your baby is being born in the breach position (meaning bottom first), during a difficult and prolonged labor, when your baby is forcefully extracted before his shoulders have cleared, or your newborn’s shoulders are too large to fit through your birth canal. 

What causes a brachial plexus injury during birth?

Brain injuries during extraction are normally caused when forceps or a vacuum is used. These instruments can also be involved when a brachial plexus injury occurs. There may be other evidence of a traumatic and forceful extraction such as severe vaginal tears and other injuries to the mother requiring extensive treatment to repair.

If your newborn baby suffered a brachial plexus injury, he or she can have muscle weakness and even paralysis in their affected arm or hand, weakened grip, numbness in the affected arm or hand, and an arm possibly in an unusual and awkward position. This is because the brachial plexus involves a group of nerves between the neck and shoulders that feed and affect muscle control in the forearm, arm, hand, and fingers.

Your newborn’s outlook with a brachial plexus injury will depend on its severity. The hope is that it was a minor one and the nerves can recover on their own. This type of injury is usually one where the affected nerves were stretched out but not torn. In some instances your newborn may need physical and occupational therapy to help them regain function and use of the affected arm or hand.

What are more severe brachial plexus injuries?

More severe brachial plexus injuries involve a torn nerve that is still attached to the spinal cord, or a nerve that is both torn and completely removed from the spinal cord. A simpler tear may require surgery to repair. Depending on the degree of injury your baby may have ongoing issues and complications in the affected arm even after surgery is done. The most significant injury where the nerve is removed from the spinal cord (an avulsion injury) will require nerve replacement surgery or nerve grafts. As with normal tears your baby may have ongoing issues, limited use of the arm, and require future medical care even after nerve replacement or nerve grafting surgery.

Brachial plexus injuries are diagnosed by exams of your newborn, imaging, and EMG studies. The more severe the injury, the more obvious the diagnosis will be. Your attorney will be able to help determine if your baby’s brachial plexus injury was caused by a negligent extraction by reviewing your medical records and consulting with medical experts.

If your newborn baby suffered a brain injury during extraction involving forceps or a vacuum, there are various indicators of this injury. One is an Apgar assessment. Apgar is a quick test performed on a baby at 1 and 5 minutes after birth, and in some instances at 10 minutes. The 1-minute score shows how well the baby tolerated the birthing process. The 5-minute score shows how well the baby is doing outside the mother’s womb. The assessment measures breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color and assigns scores of 0 – 2 for each category. A 5 minute Apgar score of 7-10 is normal and reassuring; 4-6 is slightly abnormal; and 0-3 is considered low. A consistent score of 0-3 may indicate brain injury.

Cord gas results will also be taken of clamped off portions of the umbilical cord. These cord gas results can show if the brain injury your baby suffered had more to do with blood and oxygenation issues to your infant during labor vs a traumatic injury to your baby’s head during delivery and extraction.

There may also be physical signs and symptoms of trauma to your newborn’s head as well as vaginal tears and other trauma to you as stated earlier. CT scans and MRIs of your baby’s head and brain will be taken which can help determine if the brain injury was an acute one or a more chronic, preexisting issue. If your baby suffered a severe brain injury this could result in ongoing limitations, extensive future medical care, or even the death of your baby not long after his or her birth.

If your newborn child suffered a brachial plexus or brain injury during delivery, and you feel it may have been caused by a negligent and traumatic extraction of your child, the Thistle Law Firm is here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.

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