In the delivery room, shoulder dystocia can be a terrifying emergency. Shoulder dystocia happens when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. If the medical team responds improperly to this emergency situation, a brachial plexus injury can occur. This is when the nerves in a baby’s neck — the brachial plexus — are damaged. The nerves of the brachial plexus control the function of the shoulder, arm and hand. Birth injuries to the upper part of the brachial plexus are called Erb’s Palsy. Injury to the lower part of the nerves is called Klumpke’s palsy. Injury to both the upper and the lower nerves of the plexus is called total brachial plexus palsy. All can cause significant, lifelong disability.
Shoulder Dystocia Symptoms
Long term effects of a birth injury resulting from shoulder dystocia include:
- The inability to turn the head.
- The arm cannot hug or reach out.
- The inability to write or pick things up.
The amount of paralysis depends on which nerves in the plexus are injured.
The most tragic cases of shoulder dystocia are the ones that could have been prevented. They are often caused by medical negligence or improper medical care. While they may have the best of intentions, a member of the hospital staff may turn the infant’s head too hard or too far, or grab the shoulder. This pressure and strain can damage delicate nerves of the newborn’s brachial plexus.
Treatment Options After Shoulder Dystocia
The Mayo Clinic states that in most babies, the injury heals without Erb’s Palsy treatment, but about 10 percent of children eventually need surgery. If it doesn’t heal on its own in the first month, the baby should see a specialist. Clinical specialists have found best results from performing surgery four to six months after birth, before the nerve damage becomes permanent.
If you have doubts or questions about how your child’s birth injury happened, an experienced birth injury law firm can help. You need an advocate outside of the medical community who can help you understand what happened and hold those responsible accountable. Sokolove Law has experienced Erb’s Palsy lawyers, nurse case managers and legal assistants ready to help you. Our firm only collects a fee if we win a settlement on your behalf.