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What is a brachial plexus birth injury?

Brachial plexus injuries are very common during difficult births. In fact, somewhere between .3 and 2 injuries occur every 1,000 births.

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves between the neck and the arm. If damaged, function of the arm can be impaired.

Injury to the brachial plexus often occurs when a baby's neck is pushed to the side during prolonged or difficult delivery. Sometimes, medical professionals may need to deliver the infant quickly, using force that stretches the infant's neck and causes injury.

Most infants (90-95 percent) fully recover from their injuries. Those that do not may have scar tissue from the injury, a rupture to the nerve or an avulsion, which occurs when the nerve is separated from the spinal cord.

Erb's palsy is the most common form of brachial plexus injury. It involves injuries to the upper nerves and can cause impairment in the shoulder. An infant with Erb's palsy may still be able to move his or her fingers. If an infant suffers damage to both lower and upper nerves, he or she suffers from a "global brachial plexus injury."

When is a brachial plexus birth injury medical malpractice?

Brachial plexus injuries are often the result of difficult labor, not medical malpractice; however, you may have a medical malpractice claim if the doctors did not take action to ameliorate the situation or if the doctor's negligence caused the injury.

Usually, medical professionals identify brachial plexus injuries immediately and are able to prevent future harm to the infant. A plaintiff may be able to show that medical malpractice occurred if:

  • Upon noticing birth trauma, the delivering doctor did not take the actions to prevent future harm that are expected of him under medical standards of care.
  • The delivering doctor's negligence caused harm to the infant that would not have occurred if the doctor had not acted negligently.

If you believe your infant's brachial plexus injury was the result of medical malpractice, take the time to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer about your options for recovery.

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