Nerve Injuries to Newborns & Pursuing Legal Compensation
One of the more common types of childbirth complications involves damage to the nerves of a child. Nerves transmit signals from the brain to other areas of the body. While motor nerves regulate muscles and movement, sensory nerves help the body recognize pain, pressure, and temperature. Thus, a nerve injury can cause a loss of function and feeling in part of the body, affecting the ability to engage in certain activities and reducing quality of life. Some nerve injuries involve compressing a nerve, while others involve stretching or tearing a nerve.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
Many nerve injuries in children involve damage to the brachial plexus, which is a group of nerves that send motor and sensory signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder and arm. Brachial plexus injuries may arise as complications of a difficult labor and delivery or a breech birth. Sometimes they result from shoulder dystocia, which means that the shoulder of a baby is trapped behind the pubic bone of the mother. A brachial plexus injury occurs when the neck and shoulder are pulled away from each other, causing the nerves to stretch or tear.
Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy
Two conditions that may develop from brachial plexus injuries are Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. While Erb’s palsy usually affects the shoulder and the upper arm of a child, Klumpke’s palsy tends to affect the forearm and the hand. A child may recover successfully from either condition, but some severe cases may result in permanent disabilities, including partial or total paralysis in the affected area. Promptly diagnosing Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy and devising a treatment plan can make a huge difference to the prognosis. Treatment may involve physical, occupational, and other forms of therapy, but serious damage to the nerves may require surgery, such as a nerve transfer.
When nerves in the face become inflamed, they may not properly transmit signals from the brain to facial muscles. This may result in a condition called Bell’s palsy, which often involves weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side of the face. Like Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, this condition may resolve successfully, but it may lead to permanent disabilities in some serious cases. Vision problems in the eye on that side of the face also may result. A baby may be more likely to develop Bell’s palsy if they have suffered from birth trauma or have acquired a viral infection from their mother. Treatments for Bell’s palsy may include anti-inflammatory and anti-viral medications.
Abnormal conditions along a nerve pathway between the brain and the face and eye are known as Horner syndrome, which affects one side of the body. Although this condition may be unavoidable, it can result from errors during childbirth that cause birth trauma, such as the improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors. Horner syndrome tends to affect the eyes most notably, so a doctor may suspect the condition if a child has problems with their pupil or eyelid, among other signs. However, Horner syndrome may be challenging to recognize. Treatment usually involves treating the underlying condition that caused the disruption to the nerve pathway.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Combining with the brain to form the central nervous system, the nerve tissues in the spinal cord send messages from the brain to other parts of the body. While an incomplete spinal cord injury allows some control over movement below the injury site, a complete spinal cord injury prevents movement below the injury site. Many spinal cord injuries in children affect the neck and cause serious complications, potentially including a type of paralysis known as quadriplegia. Spinal cord injuries cannot be cured, so a doctor should try to prevent them by using extra care during the birth of a baby with known risk factors, or potentially advising a C-section. Treatments may include surgeries, therapy, and medications.
Compensation for Nerve Injuries to a Newborn
When a child suffers serious or permanent disabilities due to nerve injuries, they may need a broad range of treatment. Costs can pile up quickly, imposing a heavy financial burden on parents. Since these injuries frequently result from medical malpractice, parents may want to consider pursuing a claim against any health care provider who was at fault. They should contact an experienced birth injury attorney in their area as soon as possible, setting up a free consultation to assess the strength and value of their potential claim.
Among other matters, an attorney can help a family hire experts to prove the liability of a defendant. Experts play a critical role in these cases, which are based on a professional standard of care. Judges and juries probably would not understand the commonly accepted practices in a certain field of medicine without expert guidance. Moreover, many states require an affidavit of merit to accompany a medical malpractice case. This usually involves a doctor or another expert reviewing the medical records supporting the claim and verifying that it has a proper substantive basis.