Brachial plexus injury is one of the more common injuries suffered by children during birth. It occurs when too much tension is put on the head and neck during delivery. It can occur during either vaginal or cesarean delivery, but it is far less common during cesarean delivery. Brachial plexus injury is the cause of Erb’s palsy, a paralysis of one or both arms.

In many cases, brachial plexus injury is the result of a doctor’s failure to appropriately anticipate or respond to abnormalities during a child’s birth. If you believe your child suffered this type of birth injury due to a doctor’s error, you may want to consult a lawyer about a possible birth injury lawsuit. The Columbus, Ohio personal injury lawyers at Robert W. Kerpsack CO., L.P.A. may be able to help you through this difficult time. Call us at (614) 766-2000 for a free consultation.

The Anatomy of Brachial Plexus Injury

Messages from the brain that control the action of the body travel down the spinal cord and move away from the spinal cord through a branching network of nerves until they reach the tissues and trigger motor responses. Where the nerves branch out from the spinal cord is known as the nerve’s roots, and are typically designated by a letter and a number. The roots of the nerves that control the motion of the arm are designated C5, 6, 7, 8, and T1, and they are the base of the brachial plexus. 

When too much pressure is put on a baby’s head or neck, the nerve roots can be bruised, pinched, or completely torn, preventing or limiting the transmission of signals along them. The process of delivery can be difficult, and doctors and nurses must take special care to avoid this type of injury when assisting a woman giving birth.

Shoulder Dystocia and Erb’s Palsy

Shoulder dystocia is when an infant’s shoulders are unable to pass through the opening in the mother’s pelvic bones without assistance. This is fairly common, and doctors should recognize it quickly to speed delivery and prevent birth injury such as cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy. 

When shoulder dystocia occurs, there are many different maneuvers that doctors can use to safely dislodge the baby in most cases without injury. This requires expert knowledge, extensive practice, and a gentle touch. Sometimes, a doctor, nurse, or midwife, through impatience, lack of skill or training, or pure accident, applies too much force while attempting to extract the baby, damaging the delicate nerve roots responsible for the movement of the arms, leading to Erb’s palsy. 

Sometimes, a baby is too large relative to ever pass safely through the birth canal — a situation that doctors should detect and head off with Cesarean section prior to attempting vaginal delivery.

Rarely is Erb’s palsy unpreventable. If a doctor’s error is responsible for your child’s injury, you should not be responsible for paying for the medical consequences of that injury. If your child suffered Erb’s palsy, a brachial plexus injury, or other injury during delivery, contact the Columbus, Ohio personal injury attorneys at Robert W. Kerpsack CO., L.P.A. today online or by phone (614) 766-2000 to discuss your legal options.