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Birth Injury

What’s a Brachial Plexus Injury? – Birth Injury Safety Check

It’s a shocking fact, but almost every case of birth-related brachial plexus injury could have been prevented.

The brachial plexus is a cluster of nerves right behind the collarbone, feeding a person’s shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand. It is especially vulnerable to doctors pulling or turning a baby’s head during delivery. In cases of shoulder dystocia (where the baby’s shoulder is stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone) the rate of BPI increases one hundred-fold!

That’s why doctors have to be so careful to prevent these injuries. Birth injury attorney Laura Brown discusses the basics of a brachial plexus injury and what can – and should – be done to prevent them.

Sometimes during labor and delivery, as the baby is descending down the birth canal to be born, the baby’s shoulder may get stuck on the mother’s pubic bone and when the baby gets stuck the doctor needs to get the baby out. So the doctor may put traction on the baby’s head and pull to try to deliver the baby.

If the doctor uses too much traction, pulls too hard, that can damage the nerves in the brachial plexus. It can range from mild to pretty severe depending on the degree of stretching and it may even tear the nerves from the spinal cord and that causes an injury to the baby’s shoulder, to the baby’s arm, to the baby’s hand so the baby may have limited motion with that arm and with the hand. So parents frequently want to know is this something that could have been prevented or are there things, steps that could have been taken to avoid this injury to my child?

One example would be maybe the baby was large and really shouldn’t have been delivered vaginally in the first place. Maybe a C-section would have been the appropriate way to deliver the baby. Or did the doctor used too much traction and pull too hard, causing this injury to the baby’s nerves? So if you have a child that has a brachial plexus injury you should contact our firm and ask us these questions. We can review the medical records to see if we can help identify whether there was a medical error made which caused an injury that should have been prevented.