Giving birth to your baby is one of the most exciting days of your life filled with hope, joy, and love; however, sometimes, things go wrong and the most wonderful experience a parent will have is also marked by trauma. Complications can arise during labor and delivery that require doctors to act quickly and precisely in order to guide the baby out of the birth canal safely. Unfortunately, a doctor can make a critical mistake that can lead to birth injuries and affect the health of a baby for life.
One type of birth injury that is caused by doctor negligence is Klumpke’s palsy. Although obstetricians use their hands to help guide babies out of the birthing canal during labor and delivery, they are supposed to know where to place their hands and just how much pressure to use when touching a newborn—just as they are supposed to know how to pull babies out of the womb during a cesarean section delivery. When doctors fail to pull the baby out of the birth canal correctly, a baby can suffer an injury such as Klumpke’s palsy. Although this type of birth injury is rare, it does occur.
What Is Klumpke’s Palsy?
Klumpke’s palsy is also known as Klumpke’s paralysis, as it is a type of partial paralysis that affects an injured baby’s arm. There are five brachial plexus nerves that are responsible for the arms, armpits, neck, and upper back. When the lowest two brachial plexus nerves are damaged, Klumpke’s palsy occurs, just like when the upper nerves are damaged, a similar injury occurs called Erb’s palsy. When either of these birth injuries occur, a baby may suffer partial paralysis in the affected arm.
What Causes Klumpke’s Palsy?
If a doctor uses too much force when pulling the baby out, or pulls the baby out in an unnatural position (e.g., pulling the baby out by an extended arm over the baby’s head), damage to the first thoracic nerve (T1) and eighth cervical (C8) nerve can occur. When nerves are damaged, certain functions are impaired and some form of paralysis is often the result.
It is often thought that bigger babies of smaller mothers are more likely to be at risk for suffering Klumpke’s palsy; however, Klumpke’s palsy often occurs due to difficult vaginal deliveries, no matter the size or weight of the child. If a doctor was negligent in handling a baby during labor and delivery, a baby can suffer from Klumpke’s palsy.
The Outcome of Klumpke’s Palsy
With Klumpke’s palsy, the forearm, wrist and hand are affected. Depending on the severity of damage done to the nerves (i.e., whether the nerves were stretched, torn, or ruptured), some form of impairment or paralysis is often the result and can lead to the following symptoms:
- Pain in the affected arm or hand
- Tingling or numbness in the affected arm or hand
- No feeling in the affected arm or hand
- Muscle weakness in the affected arm or hand
- Paralyzed arm
- Tight wrist and fingers that appears to look like a claw hand
Although any type of nerve injury and paralysis is serious, most babies are able to recover from Klumpke’s palsy through physical therapy and/or surgery. Of course, some cases are more severe, causing some babies to suffer lifelong impairments of their arms and hands. Sadly, some children will have a limited range of motion while others won’t be able to feel their injured arms or use their hands.
Whether minor or severe, innocent babies who are injured deserve compensation not only for the injury they endured but also for medical care and physical therapy to help improve their function. For help holding a hospital or doctor accountable, please Contact Us to discuss your possible medical malpractice lawsuit. We would honored to help your family seek justice and just compensation. You can also request a free copy of our book, A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.