Injuries to the brachial plexus affect communication between the spinal cord and the nerves that control the arm and shoulder. Trauma that occurs during birth can injure this area, leading to numbness, weakness and loss of mobility to the arm, shoulder or hand.
Review the causes and symptoms of damage to the brachial plexus if you suspect this type of birth injury may have affected your child during delivery.
Causes of brachial plexus injuries
The brachial plexus nerve network stretches from the neck across the upper chest to the armpit. Sudden yanking or stretching can tear these nerves, resulting in pain and impaired function. Larger babies have a risk for this injury if the baby’s head stretches away from the shoulder or becomes trapped while traveling through the birth canal. Infants have a higher risk for these injuries when they are in breech position or the mother has a long labor.
Types of brachial plexus injuries
Most brachial plexus injuries that occur at birth result in either Klumpke’s or Erb’s palsy. The latter is the more common injury and results in damage to the upper part of the brachial plexus. Your infant may be unable to lift his or her arm or bend the elbow. Klumpke’s palsy, which impacts the lower part of the nerve bundle, affects the hand and wrist rather than the entire arm.
Minor brachial plexus injuries often resolve without treatment, but more severe injuries can be seriously disabling. Families can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit in North Carolina when a doctor’s negligence contributed to birth injuries.