What Causes Brachial Plexus Injuries? What Can I Do if my Loved One or I Sustain One?

The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that is located between the spine, the arms and the shoulder. It is essentially the central nervous system of the arm, and is what enables us to complete almost every task in which we use the limb from the shoulder down to the fingers. The brachial plexus is composed of three different nerve bundles that are each responsible for a different, important function.

When this area of the body is injured, it can have immediate and dramatic effects, the severity of which are determined by whether the nerves have been stretched, compressed or torn. The most common causes of brachial plexus injuries are birth injuries, though they may also be a result of a traumatic accident in which the head is pushed up while the shoulder or arm is pressed down; these types of incidents most frequently occur as football injuries or as a result of vehicular accidents.

Brachial plexus injuries that occur as a result of a difficult birth, such as a breech presentation or prolonged labor, are often a result of too much force being used to extract the infant from the birth canal. If the nerves are simply stretched they often heal, but when they are injured or torn they can result in a condition known as Erb’s palsy, or total brachial plexus birth palsy when the nerves in both the upper and lower areas of the arm are involved. There are a number of circumstances that can lead to a baby becoming wedged into the birth canal, but an experienced physician is generally able to anticipate these issues and address them in a way that prevents the child from being injured.

Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons the statistics indicate that many infants are impacted by Erb’s palsy as a result of a birth injury, with one in 1,000 infants experiencing it and five to ten percent of those being permanently disabled as a result. If your child has been diagnosed with either Erb’s palsy or total brachial plexus birth palsy as a result of having been pulled too forcefully from the birth canal, the injury will likely have an impact on them for the rest of their life. They may lose the use of the arm or hand, suffer pain or numbness, and inability to sense pressure, heat or cold. In addition to finding appropriate medical professionals who can treat you child’s condition, it is advised that you seek the counsel of an experienced birth injury attorney who can advise you as to any legal remedies that may be available to you, including compensation to help pay for any therapy, surgeries or treatment that your child may need in order to provide an optimal result.

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