My baby suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth. What type of treatment does she need and will there be complications?

Your baby girl turned two weeks old yesterday. You and your husband are thrilled to have her home, but you’ve been noticing some odd behavior that has you both worried. The day you left the hospital, your doctor informed you that she may have pulled a neck muscle during delivery but that you shouldn’t worry because it will heal quickly. After two weeks of incessant crying every time you touch her neck and her inability to move her arm, you are doubting your doctor’s assessment.

Therefore, you decide to get a second opinion and take her to a friend’s pediatrician. After an extensive examination, the doctor gives you a diagnosis: a brachial plexus injury which most likely occurred during delivery. She explains that these types of injuries, on a minor scale, are common when a doctor places too much force on a baby’s head and twists her neck to help maneuver her shoulders out of the birth canal. The tendons in the neck can stretch too much and sometimes tear, causing the brachial plexus injury. Although minor injuries usually heal by themselves, she tells you that your baby’s injuries are quite extensive and will need proper care to heal properly and avoid complications.

You can’t believe it. Your doctor not only hurt your precious baby girl but he then misdiagnosed the birth injury. She’s been in pain for two weeks and you didn’t even know. You are determined to get her the treatment she needs, but first you need to know how are brachial plexus injuries are treated. 

Brachial Plexus Injuries, Complications, and Treatment

Brachial plexus palsy is partial paralysis of the neck or shoulder due to torn tendons. It usually occurs when your baby’s neck is stretched too far in one direction during delivery. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one out of every 1,000 newborns suffers from some sort of brachial plexus injury during delivery.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that many of these injuries are minor and will heal within three to six months. However, the NIH also states that some injuries are worse than others and can cause serious complications if not treated properly. Complications include:

  • Pain
  • Abnormal muscle spasms or tightening of the muscles (could be permanent)
  • Permanent, partial, or total loss of function of the affected nerves, causing paralysis or weakness in the arm, shoulder, or neck

In fact, any type of brachial plexus injury (minor or major) could feasibly cause your baby pain for up to half a year. This is why it is extremely important to recognize the signs of trauma and get a diagnosis as soon as possible.  You should also know the proper treatment and care to help decrease your child’s discomfort. Always speak with your pediatrician before attempting treatment or therapies on your child. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Daily massages. For mild cases, gently massaging the arm and performing range-of-motion exercises are recommended to help loosen and gently stretch your baby’s muscles.
  • Stabilizing the arm. Splints or immobility slings may be used to keep your baby from flailing or causing more damage to the tendon.
  • Specialty care or physical therapy. If your baby doesn’t improve within the first few weeks, a specialist may need to evaluate the damage and perform extensive motion exercises.
  • Surgery. Depending on the severity of the tear, surgery may be considered if strength has not returned to the affected muscles by the time the baby is six months old as this could be indicative of a separation of the nerve root from the spinal cord (avulsion). It isn’t clear whether surgery to fix the nerve problem will solve the paralysis, but nerve grafts and nerve transfers are sometimes tried.

Your Baby Deserves More

If you’re concerned about your child’s health or you suspect that she may have been injured during delivery, make sure you monitor her movements and seek medical attention if there are any symptoms of injury. Your baby depends on you to take care of her—don’t let her down by putting off treatment.

If you discover that she did indeed suffer a brachial plexus injury at the hands of your delivery doctor, fight for her treatment. You may be entitled to compensation that can help cover the costs of her physical therapy or surgery. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our knowledge and experience dealing with birth injury cases will not only give you peace of mind, but will help your baby girl get the justice she deserves. Call now!

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