Los Angeles Birth Injury Resources

Frequently Asked Questions About Brachial Plexus Injuries

What is brachial plexus injury?

Brachial plexus injury (BPI) is a nerve injury to the brachial plexus, a system of nerves around the neck and shoulders that are responsible for feeling and control in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. There are different terms used to describe BPI. These include Erb’s palsy (an upper trunk injury), Klumpke’s palsy (a lower trunk injury), brachial plexus palsy (or brachial plexus paralysis), Erb-Duchenne palsy, Horner’s syndrome (when facial nerves are also affected), and “burners” or “stingers” (usually associated with sports-related brachial plexus injuries).

What are the causes of brachial plexus injury?

It often occurs in the childbirth process, when the child’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, which creates an emergency situation. This is known as shoulder dystocia. If the correct delivery techniques and maneuvers are not performed, or if they are performed incorrectly, physicians and other medical personnel might resort to applying excessive force and traction to the baby’s head and neck, which may stretch or tear the brachial plexus nerves.

What are some signs and symptoms of brachial plexus injury?

There are characteristic signs and symptoms of BPI.

Signs and symptoms of brachial plexus injury include:

  • Loss of movement in the baby’s arm
  • Loss of feeling in the baby’s arm
  • The baby’s arm is bent
  • The baby is unable to grip

BPI is not limited to these signs and symptoms. Please note that the effects of brachial plexus injuries vary according to the level, severity, and extent of the injury. There may be partial or complete damage to spinal nerve roots, the cords or trunks, or to multiple components of the brachial plexus nerves.

If you believe your child suffered a BPI during birth, contact McMahan Law, PC today at (310) 734-4485 and talk to a professional who cares about you and your loved ones. Our Los Angeles birth injury attorneys have experience in brachial plexus injury.

What are some risk factors associated with brachial plexus injury?

A doctor may be liable for his or her negligent failure to properly monitor and/or treat your pregnancy pregnancy in the presence of known risk factors for brachial plexus birth injury, such as high birth weight or gestational diabetes.

Characteristics and Conditions in the Mother

  • Maternal or gestational diabetes: A doctor may be liable for his or negligent failure to diagnosis or treat gestational diabetes that results in brachial plexus birth injury.

Characteristics and Conditions in the Infant

  • High birth weight or macrosomia: Were ultrasounds performed? Did your doctor properly calculate your due date? Your baby’s birth weight? A doctor’s failure to properly monitor your pregnancy may result in a high-birth-weight baby being delivered vaginally as opposed to via C-section, or other negligent acts or omissions. As a consequence, the baby may have been too large for the birth canal and may have been at an unnecessary risk for brachial plexus injury.

Events Associated with Brachial Plexus Injury

  • Shoulder dystocia: When a baby’s shoulder gets stuck or lodged beneath the mother’s pubic bone. One feature of a shoulder dystocia is sometimes referred to as the “turtle sign,” because after the baby’s head is delivered, the baby’s stuck shoulder causes the baby’s head to retract.
  • Breech delivery
  • Operative vaginal delivery: The use of a vacuum or forceps can cause the baby’s head and neck to be twisted and brachial plexus injury can result.
  • Clavicle fracture
  • Prolonged head to body interval at delivery

Links to Brachial Plexus Injury Resources

United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc.

Forum Page – Ask questions and talk with other victims and families affected by this devastating injury.

Resources Page – This page contains some great articles regarding brachial plexus paralysis

Links to Brain Injury Resources

Brain Injury Association of California

Brain Injury Association of America