Birth injuries can be devastating, essentially a parent’s worst nightmare. And yet, they are not uncommon. One such condition is brachial plexus nerve injury, sometimes referred to as brachial plexus palsy or specified as Erb’s Palsy. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that extends from the collarbone through the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers, providing critical movement and sensation in these areas. When the brachial plexus becomes injured, nerve damage may impede feeling and mobility in the arm on the affected side. If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during birth, you might be interested to know more about specific injuries to the brachial plexus and recent developments in treatment. While brachial plexus injuries are highly variable, causing mild to severe symptoms depending on the extent of the nerve damage in a particular case, understanding what can be done to treat your child’s brachial plexus injury is of paramount concern when seeking to support their best quality of life.
Recovering financial damages may also be necessary for you and your family when faced with the catastrophic medical costs associated with your child’s condition. To find out more about your rights and legal options if your child suffered injury to the brachial plexus during birth or another birth injury, and you suspect a medical professional was responsible, contact us today at 866-708-8617. An experienced New Jersey birth injury attorney on our team can answer your questions free of charge.
Treatment Options for Brachial Plexus Injuries at Birth
Treatment options for brachial plexus injuries range from allowing the stretched nerves to heal on their own (which could take nearly two years), to undergoing extensive corrective surgery. Depending on the nature and extent of a specific brachial plexus injury, your child’s doctor may order one or more of the following treatments and therapies: exercise; physical therapy to improve strength, joint flexibility, and muscle suppleness; surgery; and potentially, nerve regeneration using the latest techniques currently being studied by researchers. In the most severe cases of brachial plexus injury during birth, a child can never fully recover, even after undergoing one or multiple surgeries and physical therapy in infancy.
In the case of surgery, the sooner the better for correcting brachial plexus injuries. Specifically, surgery within six months post-injury yields better results than those performed later. There are a variety of surgical procedures that may be necessary to address a brachial plexus birth injury. Doctors may graft or transfer the nerves from other parts of the body to the brachial plexus to get elbows and shoulders working properly again, or transfer muscle from other areas of the body and attach it to the damaged site, reconnecting the blood supply to the muscle. In another surgery to improve mobility of the affected body part, a physician might release the joint contractures or tissue around the joints, or, for arm movement, transfer tendons from other places in the body to the shoulder. The latest development in microsurgery employs high level microscopes and special instruments to repair the torn or otherwise damaged nerves.
Physical therapy consisting of exercises to improve arm, wrist, finger and shoulder movement each day by a baby’s parents typically follows surgery, especially for Erb’s Palsy. If a child is self-healing without success, the pediatrician might recommend further surgery to repair nerve damage. Additional surgery may be required as the child grows to address ongoing weakness in the affected area, which is typical of birth brachial plexus palsy. Sometimes even after surgery, lost functionality and movement return slowly over months, not all at once. Often, the affected arm or shoulder remains weaker and slower-developing than the healthy arm throughout childhood.
Fortunately, hope for new nerve regenerative treatment methods for brachial plexus injuries are on the horizon. Studies conducted at Notre Dame University simulated what happens naturally as infants develop in an effort to reconnect neurons to their corresponding dorsal (DRG) root ganglia sensory axons in the spinal cord. Assisted by a chemical treatment called paclitaxel, researchers sought to make the DRG connectors fuse with central and peripheral nervous system neurons responsible for movement in the areas affected by brachial plexus injury. In the course of treatment, DRG axons were able to successfully re-enter the spinal cord to make these critical connections. New applications for the latest developments in treatment for brachial plexus injury show promise for injured babies and adults alike.
Child has a Brachial Plexus Birth Injury, What are my Legal Options in NJ?
In order to prevent brachial plexus injuries, obstetricians must expertly use birth-assisting instruments to avoid undue contorting of the emerging infant’s head, make split decisions in the face of complicated births, and come to each birth prepared with the most comprehensive information to assess possible dangers to mother and child. Unfortunately, many medical professionals fail to fulfill these vital responsibilities, with unintended birth injuries, such as brachial plexus nerve damage, as a result.
Likewise, pediatricians must have complete knowledge of the birth history of their patients and not only recognize the signs of possible brachial plexus birth damage, but vigilantly monitor the condition after diagnosis to choose and execute the right treatment. With so many cutting-edge treatment options now available, your child’s treating physician needs to know what’s right for your baby.
If your child has a brachial plexus birth injury and a healthcare provider was negligent during childbirth prior to the injury, delayed or made an error in diagnosis, or failed to provide proper treatment, knowing the legal avenues that may be available to you may be the first step toward recovering compensation and holding these professionals accountable. Contact a seasoned New Jersey attorney representing birth injury and pediatric malpractice victims throughout the state to review your child’s history and symptoms, and to explore your options. You can receive a free consultation anytime by filling out our online form or calling 866-708-8617.