Brachial Plexus Injuries: What Happens When Virginia Doctors Hurry

While it may sound like a complicated term, the Brachial Plexus is simply the group of nerves that runs from the spine, through the neck, and controls the shoulder, hand, and arm movements. Unfortunately, hurried medical personnel often injure this group of nerves during the delivery of a baby in Virginia.  

When a baby’s shoulder gets “stuck” on the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery, there are several options available to doctors and nurses to ensure a safe delivery for both mom and baby. Many, however, will resort to the fastest method of delivery by pulling on the infant’s head or by using tools like forceps or a vacuum to extract the baby.  

A Brachial Plexus birth injury is caused when the head is pulled in the opposite direction of the shoulders. Imagine someone pressing down on your shoulders while another person pulls your head up.  That strain is what causes the nerves and ligaments to be stretched, sprained, and sometimes torn.  

There are four specific types of Brachial Plexus injuries recognized in Virginia:

  1. Neuropraxia: Ranges from mild neuropraxia from stretching, to complete paralysis with no potential for recovery. The nerves are often compressed from swelling and bruising from the shoulder being caught.
  2. Neuroma: This results from scar tissue after a brachial plexus has tried to heal itself. The nerves are compressed by scar tissue, preventing signals from being sent to the muscles. This type of injury usually requires surgery to restore function.
  3. Rupture: This occurs when the nerve is torn at several locations but not at the spinal attachment and usually requires surgery and therapy to restore normal function.
  4. Avulsion: This occurs when the nerves are pulled from the spinal cord.  This is the most severe type of Brachial Plexus injury and requires extensive surgery and a possible muscle transfer to restore any function.  Left untreated, the arm would be paralyzed forever.  

During delivery, a Brachial Plexus injury can happen when a health professional fails to properly estimate the weight of a baby, fails to determine that the baby’s shoulders are too large to fit through the birth canal, or by applying excessive lateral traction to the baby’s neck during delivery.  

When a baby is injured, the infant and the parents both suffer. If your baby has a Brachial Plexus injury, and you suspect the injury was the result of medical negligence by a health care provider, contact the birth injury attorneys at Shevlin Smith. Our Fairfax lawyers have the experience and knowledge necessary to fight for you and your child.  Call 703.591.0067 today!

Michael J. Shevlin
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Specializing in medical malpractice and serious personal injury cases since 1994.