Brachial Plexus Palsy

Brachial Plexus Palsy is also known as brachial plexus paralysis and brachial palsy.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibers that starts in the spinal cord then travels through the neck into the armpit region and then into the arm. These nerves conduct signals from the brain that control muscle movements in your shoulder, arm, and hand. The brachial plexus contains both motor and sensory nerves. Motor nerves carry messages to make the body move while sensory nerves carry messages that signal pain, pressure, and temperature.

Brachial plexus palsy occurs when the brachial plexus nerves are severed, pressured, or stretched. When the head and neck are forced away from the shoulder, the brachial plexus may be stretched and if the stretch becomes severe, the nerve’s roots may tear or become severed from the spinal cord, also known as avulsion. Damage from pressure can occur if the brachial plexus is crushed between the collarbone and rib, or if nearby muscles become swollen. Damage to the brachial plexus causes nerve signals to be stopped or interrupted. 

Interruptions to nerve signals due to damage to the brachial plexus can cause:

  • A limp of paralyzed arm
  • Inability to use the shoulder or elbow muscles
  • lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrists
  • no feeling in the arm or hand

Brachial plexus injuries or damages are often the result of:

  • Shoulder trauma
  • Tumors
  • Inflamation
  • Accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Childbirth complications

When brachial plexus palsy happens because of an injury during childbirth, it may have been caused by an error made by the obstetrician or other medical professionals. Brachial plexus injuries may happen when the head and shoulder are forcefully pushed away from each other or when the baby’s arm is forced above the baby’s head during delivery.

Brachial plexus injuries may occur because of a difficult delivery and can happen if:

  • the labor is prolonged
  • the baby is in a breech position (legs first)
  • the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth

The severity of a brachial plexus injury is determined by the type of nerve damage:

  • Avulsion is the most severe type, caused when the nerve root is cut from the spinal cord. The only potential for recovery is if surgical reconnection is made quickly.
  • Other types of avulsion occurs where only part of the nerve is damaged and leaves the ability for the nerve to slowly recover function.
  • Neuropraxia is an injury where the nerves are stretched which can cause problems with signals being communicated through the nerve. Neuropraxia injuries have a high rate of spontaneous recovery.

There are several things that doctors and medical professionals might do that can lead to brachial plexus injuries that could result in a medical malpractice case:

  • Failing to monitor fetal distress
  • Incorrectly estimating the babies weight
  • Not knowing that the baby’s shoulders are too large for the birth canal
  • Application of too much pressure during delivery

If your baby was born with a brachial plexus injury and you suspect that the injury was caused by obstetric malpractice you should contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney. The Sweeney Law Firm can review your case at no charge to determine if you have a case. The Sweeney law firm never charges a fee unless a recovery is made for you.