Nerves on each side of the face send signals from the brain to facial muscles. Inflammation in a nerve may disrupt these signals, causing weakness, numbness, or even paralysis on that side of the face. Known as Bell’s palsy, this condition may arise during childbirth. Bell’s palsy resolves easily in many cases, but it can lead to complications in others. Risk factors for this condition include diabetes and viral infections, such as infections acquired from the mother, as well as birth trauma. For example, a doctor who uses forceps to assist with delivery may injure the facial nerves. Babies who are very large or who are born after a long and difficult labor may face a higher risk of Bell’s palsy.
Notable consequences of Bell’s palsy may include facial nerve damage and vision problems in the eye on that side of the face, such as pain, blurriness, and even blindness. Sometimes a child cannot blink due to loss of movement around the eyelid, which may damage the eye. Most people eventually regain movement in the affected area, but some severe cases may lead to permanent weakness on that side of the face.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy
Common signs of Bell’s palsy may involve the eyes and mouth. A baby may suffer from a droopy eyelid or an extremely dry eye on that side of the face, or they may not be able to close the eye. They may not be able to smile or control their drooling, and they may partly or completely lose their sense of taste. Other possible symptoms include headaches, abnormal sensitivity to sound, and general weakness on one side of the face. If Bell’s palsy prevents movement of the facial muscles, this form of paralysis is clearly visible.
Testing for Bell’s Palsy
A doctor may conduct MRIs or CT scans to confirm a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy and identify the cause. They also may use electroencephalography to measure the electrical activity in the area. This can determine whether the facial nerves are sending appropriate signals to muscles.
Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
Once a doctor has diagnosed Bell’s palsy, they may prescribe corticosteroids to resolve the inflammation in the facial nerves. In addition, a baby may receive anti-viral medication if their symptoms resulted from a viral infection. Children suffering from dry eyes caused by Bell’s palsy may benefit from eye drops or artificial tears. These can relieve discomfort in the eye and prevent a child from scratching the eye, which can cause more serious damage. Meanwhile, an eye patch can shield the eye of a child who cannot blink due to paralysis around the eyelid.
Legal Claims Based on Bell’s Palsy
Some cases of Bell’s palsy are not easily preventable, but others could have been avoided if a doctor had recognized risk factors during pregnancy or childbirth and managed them appropriately. In other cases, Bell’s palsy directly results from the improper use of medical instruments during delivery, such as pressing too firmly on the head with the forceps blade. Parents of a child who developed Bell’s palsy due to medical errors should sue the health care providers who were at fault. They may be able to recover compensation for medications and other treatments needed by the child. If a child suffers from permanent disabilities, they may be able to get substantial compensation for their reduced quality of life as well.
Bringing a successful birth injury lawsuit requires meeting various procedural requirements. These may include submitting an affidavit of merit from a medical expert, as well as complying with the statute of limitations and other deadlines.
Make Sure to Sue in Time!
The statute of limitations is a strict rule that generally prevents a claim from being brought after a certain time has passed.
Parents should promptly consult a birth injury lawyer if they think that they may have a claim. These attorneys generally provide free consultations and do not collect fees for their services unless they get a settlement or verdict for a client.