New Jersey Brachial Plexus Injury Attorneys
Advocating for Birth Injury Victims in Passaic County and across New Jersey
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that extends from the spinal cord, to the neck, and into the armpit. This nerve bundle is essential for the proper functioning of the shoulder, arm, hand, wrist, and fingers. Unfortunately, brachial plexus injuries present a significant threat to the health of babies during child birth, as they often occur when issues such as shoulder dystocia impede the successful delivery of the baby through the birth canal. When dealing with such serious complications, the improper use of maneuvers to correct shoulder dystocia or the application of excessive force may lead to bending, stretching, excessive pressure, or severing of the brachial plexus nerves. Such damage can result in permanent consequences for the child, including conditions such as Erb’s Palsy, as well as significant neurological and functional disabilities and even paralysis.
When medical malpractice causes such undue suffering to innocent children, the attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group work tirelessly to achieve the compensation they deserve. Birth injuries of such magnitude can create a host of devastating effects for children and their families, requiring extensive financial resources to pay for medical care, rehabilitative treatment, and necessary future accommodations. Further, patients and their families can and should be provided with some sense of justice for their pain and suffering. Our skilled birth injury lawyers have achieved millions of dollars on behalf of families in these situations; click here to view just some of our recent verdicts and settlements.
What is a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury?
Brachial plexus nerve injury is a birth-related condition that approximately 1 to 3 babies suffer when nerve connections from the neck and upper back that make the hands, arms and shoulders move are stretched or severed from the spinal column. It usually happens when the infant’s neck contorts sideways during a prolonged or difficult birth. The brachial plexus injury can cause weakness, numbness, or paralysis from the shoulder to the hand when damage to the nerves responsible for movement and feeling in the arm and hand occurs. The brachial plexus nerves span the neck to the armpit by crossing over the chest. When nerves located higher in the neck are stretched or dislodged from the spinal cord, the resulting immobility in the shoulder or partial mobility in hands and fingers is called Erb’s Palsy. When both upper and lower nerve centers in the brachial network are affected, this is considered a more severe, generalized birth injury.
What are the symptoms of brachial plexus injury?
Brachial plexus injuries may result in a wide range of symptoms and repercussions, with variability contingent upon the number and extent to which nerves are damaged. For children and adults alike, this type of nerve injury can result in chronic pain as well as arms, hands or shoulders with functional limitations ranging from slight to severe. Common consequences of brachial plexus injuries include:
- Shoulder or arm pain
- Loss of control or loss of feeling in the muscles of the shoulder, arm, hand, wrist, or fingers
- Related conditions such as Erb’s Palsy or Klumpke’s Palsy
The symptoms are the generally the same for both brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy, including numbness and complete or partial paralysis. Adults who experience traumatic accidents can also damage the nerve network that branches from the brain and spinal cord to neck and shoulder region, leaving the victims with weakness, paralysis or pain in the neck, hands and shoulders. Further, research indicates that up to 30 percent of brachial plexus injuries result in permanent neurological impairment. When the brachial plexus is injured, symptoms may appear immediately or months after the initial injury.
Causes of Brachial Plexus Injuries during Birth
As we know all-too-well, newborn babies are incredibly fragile. As such, a single misstep in administering care during child birth can spell devastating consequences for their long-term health and development. Brachial plexus injuries represent one such complication that may occur under a variety of conditions, most commonly in cases involving shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. When physicians apply improper force or make errors when performing necessary maneuvers to correct this issue, the brachial plexus may be damaged. A fetus’s arm being yanked or the head stretched to one side during birth can cause mild to severe brachial plexus injury.
Newborns may also suffer injury to their brachial plexus during birth for several other reasons, some of which include: long labor, shoulder dislocation in the birth canal, disproportion of the baby’s head when compared with the size of the mother’s small pelvis, breech birth, an abnormally large baby, and instrument-assisted births with forceps or vacuum extractors. In any of these cases, negligence on the part of the doctor or other medical professionals responsible for handling the birth may be the cause.
Brachial plexus injuries may occur as a result of:
Over-stretching: can occur when the head or neck is pulled from the shoulder
- Excessive pressure: can occur if the brachial plexus bundle is impacted between the collar bone and the rib cage
- Severing: can occur when the brachial plexus nerves are cut and rendered non-functional
A number of incidences of medical negligence may result in brachial plexus injuries, including:
- Delayed C-section
- Failure to identify and respond to shoulder dystocia
- Improper maneuvering or excessive pressure when attempting to correct shoulder dystocia
- Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery
What are the Risk Factors for Brachial Plexus Injuries?
Risk factors for brachial plexus injuries include:
- Mothers with gestational diabetes
- Mothers who are overweight or obese
- Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- Mothers with a small pelvis
- Babies with a higher-than-average birth weight
- Pregnancies that have extended beyond full term
- Previous pregnancies with higher-weight babies
- Deliveries that involve the use of forceps or vacuum extractors
How is a Brachial Plexus Injury Diagnosed?
Birth injuries specifically affecting the brachial plexus nerves may be diagnosed with a physical assessment, in addition to imaging tests. While an X-ray or ultrasound may be used, it is more likely that doctors will use an EMG to check muscle and nerve responsiveness to stimuli; MRI to get a detailed view of the damaged area, including the arteries leading to the affected limbs; and/or CT myelography to see the full extent of the nerve and spinal cord condition. Tests may show a stretched nerve or neurapraxia, scar tissue interfering with nerve function or neuroma, ruptured nerves, or avulsion, which means nerves separated from the spinal cord. These conditions may result in in numbness, burning pain, or paralysis in the affected areas, and sometimes, it can cause the eyelids to droop.
Mild brachial plexus injury is more common and typically heals on its own. However, significant nerve damage may need surgical repair to restore arm or hand movement when the nerves that originate from the spinal cord at the neck become detached or ruptured.
Contact our NJ Brachial Plexus Birth Injury Lawyers for Additional Information
If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury or another form of birth injury due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, you may have grounds to financial compensation for medical expenses, surgical correction, rehabilitative treatment, and the emotional pain and suffering sustained by your family. To learn more about the avenues that may be available to you, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group at 973-435-4551 or toll free at 888-409-0816 for a free initial consultation.