Brachial Plexus

Memphis Birth Injury Lawyers Handling Brachial Plexus and Erb’s Palsy Claims

Fighting for children and families in Memphis, Jackson, and throughout West Tennessee

Sometimes a difficult delivery can be hard on both the mother and the newborn. When a baby’s head is too large to pass through the birth canal, when a baby is being delivered from a breech presentation, or the baby’s shoulders are so broad that they get stuck on the pubic bones, the nerves of the brachial plexus can become injured, causing brachial plexus palsy. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves in the shoulder which control the movement of the shoulder, forearm and the hand.

At the personal injury law firm of Bailey & Greer, PLLC, we believe that if your child has sustained brachial plexus injuries due to medical negligence, you have every right to recover compensation for the losses you and your child will suffer as a result. Our birth injury attorneys in Jackson and Memphis represent families whose lives were changed by an act of medical malpractice. Let us help you, too.

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What are brachial plexus injuries?

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves which begin in the neck and extend throughout the upper body. These nerves can be injured during birth if there is difficulty in getting the baby’s shoulder through the birth canal (a condition called shoulder dystocia) and excessive force is used to deliver the baby. The severity of the injury, as well as the number of nerves which are damaged, affects the likelihood of recovery from a brachial plexus injury.

Brachial plexus injuries can resolve themselves in a few weeks, or they can cause lasting damage. When a doctor or other medical professional fails to follow the accepted standard of care while delivering a child, irreparable injury can be the result. If it can be proven that the medical professional’s error caused the brachial plexus injury, you may be able to take legal action against them and the hospital for causing a serious injury.

What is shoulder dystocia?

A brachial plexus injury is one of the most serious complications of a shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia occurs during delivery when the baby’s anterior (leading) shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone after the head is delivered. There are no warning signs. This birth complication is considered an emergency and can be frightening for the parents, the doctors and the delivery team.

When a shoulder dystocia occurs, delivery teams have a short time to handle it properly. They are trained to deal with it using mnemonic set of letters, HELPERR, to help them remember the steps to follow. HELPERR stands for:

  • H – Call for help. A special team and/or equipment will be called to the delivery room.
  • E – Evaluate for episiotomy. Depending on the severity of and methods used to loosen the shoulder, the mother may need an episiotomy.
  • L – Legs. This is a maneuver named after its creator, Dr. McRoberts, in which the mother’s hips are flexed and her thighs positioned on the abdomen with the goal of freeing the baby’s shoulder.
  • P – Suprapubic pressure. This maneuver involves a member of the delivery team placing a hand on the baby’s stuck shoulder just above the mother’s pubic bone and using a CPR style motion to change the shoulder position.
  • E – Enter maneuvers. These are also known as internal rotations in which the doctor tries to dislodge the shoulder directly.
  • R – Remove the posterior arm. Sometimes the baby can be freed manually by removing the posterior arm (the one not involved in the dystocia) from the birth canal.
  • R – Roll the patient. This simple maneuver involves rolling the mother over and onto an all fours position. Sometimes this allows gravity and the position change to dislodge the baby.

If a shoulder dystocia occurred during your childbirth and your baby suffered a birth injury, you may have many questions about your legal rights. We suggest that you call a Memphis medical malpractice lawyer right away.

Is my baby at risk for a brachial plexus injury?

As shoulder dystocia precedes brachial plexus injuries which occur during birth, research into the causes of shoulder dystocia could help with the prevention of brachial plexus injuries. As a result of research into the causes of shoulder dystocia, experts developed a list of conditions which are associated with an increased risk of shoulder dystocia.

These risk factors include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Excessive weight gain by the mother
  • Excessive weight gain by the baby
  • Small pelvic area
  • Shoulder dystocia during a previous birth
  • Slow dilation
  • Use of forceps or a vacuum extractor during delivery

While the presence of one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that an injury will occur during your birth, it is important that you be aware of the risk. Be sure to talk to your birth team and let them know that you are concerned about the possibility of shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injuries, and that you would like them to work with you to do whatever they can to prevent them.

While not all brachial plexus injuries can be prevented, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injuries happening during your birth. The first thing that you can do is to learn as much as you can about brachial plexus injuries and shoulder dystocia, including their causes and how they can be prevented. Also, discuss with your birth team the risks and benefits of an elective cesarean birth if the baby is large, so that the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor would be avoided altogether.

A final piece of information for you to share with the medical personnel who are delivering your baby is that you wish for as little force as possible to be applied if a shoulder dystocia does occur during the course of your birth.

What are the types of brachial plexus injuries?

There are a few different types of brachial plexus injuries with varying levels of commonality and severity.

  • Neurapraxia is the most common type of brachial plexus injury and the least severe. It is the result of strains or tears in the brachial plexus nerves during childbirth. Neurapraxia usually resolves on its own, but can still cause pain and other problems until it heals.
  • Erb’s palsy is the result of the rupture of the brachial plexus nerves and it ranges in severity from partial or full paralysis of the affected arm, loss of sensory or motor function, and the arm may be bent towards the body or hanging limply.
  • Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower part of the brachial plexus nerves and it results in numbness and loss of sensation and a hand that takes on the appearance of a claw. It is possible for the injury to resolve on its own, but in severe cases it might require medication or surgery.
  • Neuroma injuries are caused by the scar tissue that develops from damage to the nerve fibers. The scar tissue puts pressure on the injured nerves making it difficult for them to send clear signals to the muscles.
Thomas Greer Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer

What are the treatment options for brachial plexus injuries?

Treatment for brachial plexus injuries will vary depending on the severity and type of injury. Some infants will improve after a bit of physical therapy, while some may require surgery to repair a completely severed nerve. Medication can be used to relax the muscles when they have become contracted and tight.

For most infants, their brachial plexus injuries will heal within three to six months; however, the more severe the injury the greater the chances that there will be residual complications such as numbness or paralysis.

Are brachial plexus injuries permanent?

Not always. If you have been told that your child’s brachial plexus injury is unlikely to improve, you may want to have your child examined by someone who specializes in treating brachial plexus injuries for a second opinion.

An orthopedist can use a variety of tools to assess your child’s brachial plexus injury, including MRIs, physical examinations, CT scans, and electro diagnostic tests, which evaluate nerve function. Once complete information is available regarding the extent of your child’s injury, the orthopedist can determine how likely it is that your child will recover from the injury and how much recovery they may be able to make. One or more surgeries may be recommended, as there are a variety of surgical techniques like nerve transfers, nerve grafts, and nerve repair, which can restore nerve function and restore movement and limb functioning.

It is important to seek a second opinion sooner rather than later, because if your child’s brachial plexus injury is something which could be repaired by surgery, the best time to operate is within three to six months of the injury. Surgeries can be done later than that, and although the results of a later surgery are often not as good as they would have been with an earlier one, they are usually better than they would have been without any surgery at all.

There are hospitals which have teams of medical professionals who are dedicated to helping children with brachial plexus injuries. One such hospital is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The parents of a three-month-old boy who was born with a limp arm had him examined by the team at the Brachial Plexus Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital when he was a few weeks old. He had surgery at three months of age, and at 18 months of age, he is able to play and do all of the other things that children his age do. Older children have had operations at the Brachial Plexus Center to give them relief from arm and shoulder pain associated with brachial plexus injuries, and to gain even greater ranges of motion than they had achieved through physical therapy and other measures prior to surgery.

What is the value of my brachial plexus injury claim?

Brachial plexus injuries can be devastating for children and their parents. If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during their birth, you need the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced birth injury attorney. When medical negligence is the cause of your child’s injuries, you may be eligible to recover compensation for losses including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future income
  • Pain and suffering

The Memphis injury attorneys at Bailey & Greer, PLLC can help determine the strength of your case.

How can a Memphis brachial plexus injury attorney help my child?

Brachial plexus palsy can leave a child with an ongoing need for physical therapy and surgery to restore some mobility to the affected arm. If their disability was the result of medical malpractice, you may want to discuss your case with an experienced West Tennessee birth injury attorney from the law firm of Baily & Greer, PLLC.

Our compassionate injury attorneys in Jackson and Memphis will listen to your story, investigate your case and pursue financial compensation from the doctor and hospital that treated your child. We want to hear your story and hold the right people and entities accountable for harming your newborn.

We look beyond your child’s injuries and consider their future

At Bailey & Greer, PLLC, we offer a free consultation to families in Memphis, Jackson and throughout West Tennessee who have experienced a brachial plexus palsy birth injury. Please reach out to our Memphis personal injury lawyers at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to schedule time with our legal team today.

Bailey & Greer Team