Denver Brachial Plexus Injury Attorney
We’re On the Side of the Children Harmed by Healthcare Professionals
Brachial plexus injuries received at birth are almost always caused by physicians pulling, twisting, or squashing a baby’s head and neck. BPI is an outrageously common birth injury in the United States, and never acceptable.
Also called obstetric brachial plexus palsy (OBPP), obstetric brachial plexus injury (OBPI), birth-related brachial plexus palsy (BRBPP), or birth brachial plexus injury (BBPI), these injuries impact the movement and sensation of one of a child's arms, which may heal naturally over a few months or be permanently paralyzed, depending on the degree of injury.
Complications can and do arise during childbirth, but doctors are trained to handle such events and keep the child safe. When they fail to meet this standard of care, it’s the child who suffers. We at Leventhal & Puga, P.C., don’t think that’s right. As parents ourselves, we are appalled when poor care causes lifelong damage, huge bills, and emotional frustration for the family. Several of our top trial attorneys devote their practice to righting the wrongs done to children at birth.
If you suspect a medical professional caused or contributed to your child’s injury, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us - (877) 433-3906. Your call and consultation are free, and we’ll review your medical records to see if you have a case.
What Is the Brachial Plexus?
The brachial plexus is a group of nerves located between the neck and shoulders. These are nerves that come down from the spinal cord, behind the collarbone, into a person's arm to provide feeling and control throughout the shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and fingers. One group of nerves or "plexus" is located on each side of a person's body.
How Do Brachial Plexus Injuries Occur?
The brachial plexus is usually damaged when a physician stretches, twists, compresses, or otherwise provides too much traction to an infant's neck during delivery. BPIs most commonly occur during vertex "head-first" presentation (said to account for 94%-97% of cases), then breech "feet-first" presentation (1%-2% of cases), and cesarean-section deliveries (1%). Shoulder dystocia, when the child’s head comes out of the birth canal but the shoulder remains stuck on the mother’s hipbone, is associated with a 100-fold increased risk of brachial plexus injury. Improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction can also injure these delicate nerves.
Large infant size; the mother having diabetes, preeclampsia, obesity, or previous children - all are considered risk factors for BPI. Medical professionals know this. They must act accordingly, or be held liable for the child’s injury.
There are several degrees of severity in brachial plexus injuries, depending on how badly the nerves are damaged. They are:
- Avulsion: The nerves are torn from the spinal cord itself. Natural recovery is impossible with such an injury. Though there are surgical options, complete recovery is not likely.
- Neurotemesis: Usually caused by "extreme" downward pressure on the shoulder, the entire nerve is disrupted – transected. This injury will not heal on its own. Surgery may help, but will not provide complete recovery.
- Rupture: The nerves have been stretched and at least partially torn, but not out of the spinal cord. Ruptured nerves cannot heal on their own. Surgery is required for any recovery, often followed by physical therapy.
- Axonotmesis: Caused by stretching or crushing, axonotmesis is complete disruption of the axons and myelin sheath in the center of the nerve, but the connective tissue surrounding the nerve (the endoneurium, perineurium, and epineurium) stays intact. Full recovery can take anywhere from weeks to years.
- Neuroma: When a stretch injury damages some of the nerve fibers and causes the formation of scar tissue, or a growth on the nerves. This tissue can press on the undamaged nerves, creating more complications and making movement more difficult. Some healing can happen naturally from such an injury, but usually not complete recovery.
- Neurapraxia: This is the most common injury and the least serious. It occurs when the nerves are stretched, compressed, or "shocked" but do not tear. Such injuries typically heal on their own within three months, though physical therapy from the parents is often needed to help with healing.
The end result of a brachial plexus injury will likely be Erb’s palsy (paralysis and loss of sensation in the shoulder/upper arm) or Klumpke’s palsy (paralysis and loss of sensation in the lower arm/wrist/hand).
Can Brachial Plexus Injury Be Treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of an injury. When neurapraxia occurs, recovery for an infant is usually straightforward, though parents may have to learn some physical therapy techniques from a doctor or specialist. More serious injuries require surgical treatment at the site of the injury, or nerve transplants on the spinal cord itself - very expensive procedures. It takes years for nerves to grow and develop, so recovery from such treatments can be difficult and painful for a child.
When Medical Providers Are to Blame, Call a Lawyer
Brachial plexus injuries can be avoided when doctors and medical staff follow proper procedures before and during childbirth. These injuries are almost always due to malpractice on someone's part, making that physician or hospital liable for such mistakes. You deserve to have an experienced Denver birth injury lawyer to fight for the rights of your child.
At Leventhal & Puga, P.C., we are a premier law firm that handles birth injury cases across the United States. Our attorneys are licensed to practice in many states, and we have the resources to pursue a case to its fullest extent against the most powerful hospitals and insurance companies to get our clients the justice their children deserve. Please call us at (877) 433-3906 to discuss what happened. We’ll sit down with you, review your medical records, and explore your options. If we can help, we’ll take your case for no upfront cost, only taking a fee if we win you fair compensation. You’ve been through enough. Let us help.
- When Childbirth Goes Wrong, Can You Sue?
- Nerve Injuries in Newborns - Merck Manuals
- Brachial Plexus Injury in Newborns - MedlinePlus
- Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy) - AAOS