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What is a brachial plexus birth injury?

A baby being born in Worcester is supposed to be one of the happiest events of the parents' lives. Unfortunately, many forget that medical complications can result for both the mother and the child. Sometimes a birth injury can happen naturally and it's no one's fault. At other times, however, there is a doctor error that occurs, leading to the issue. The aftereffects can be long-term or short-term. They can lead to major medical expenses, significant treatment and the need for constant care.

One particular problem that can result is a brachial plexus birth injury. If this injury happens, it can lead to a weakening and loss in the ability to move the arm. The nerves of the shoulder - the brachial plexus - suffer damage when the child is being born. This can occur when the delivery is difficult. It can be due to the newborn's head and neck being pulled to the side when the baby is coming through the birth canal. If the doctor pulls the baby's shoulders as it is being born, the brachial plexus injury can result. If the baby is being born feet first, pressure on the baby's arms as they're raised can cause this injury.

There are various levels of severity. This injury frequently affects the upper arm alone. Another form is if the upper and lower arm is affected. The injury can affect the hand. Reasons for shoulder dystocia include the aforementioned breech birth, a baby that is unusually large, and if the baby is difficult to deliver after the head has already come out and if the shoulder is trapped. Parents might not be aware that a brachial plexus injury has happened until the symptoms show themselves.

There might be brachial plexus injury if the baby can't move his or her upper arm, lower arm or hand; if there is an absence of involuntary response to stimulation; if the arm is bent at the elbow and the baby holds it against his or her body; and if the baby has a decreased ability to grip on the side that is affected. While this issue might not be a serious as another kind of birth injury, it can still make costly treatment necessary. Knowing whether or not the issue occurred as a result of a medical mistake is important when considering litigation. Discussing the matter with a legal professional can be helpful.

Source: nlm.nih.gov, "Brachial plexus injury in newborns," accessed on Apr. 13, 2015

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