Birth Trauma & Torticollis in Babies
The biggest wish every expectant parent has for their new child is that they be born healthy. So if a parent notices their baby holding their head in one direction and having difficulty moving their head, it can be very alarming. If this is the case, your child may have torticollis.
Also known as “wryneck,” torticollis impacts the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which extends from the ear to the collarbone on each side of the neck. When torticollis occurs, one SCM tightens to the extent that it becomes shorter than the other, causing the neck to become twisted.
Not all cases of infant torticollis are the result of birth trauma. There are two different types of infant torticollis: congenital torticollis and acquired torticollis. Acquired torticollis is the less common type and develops later in infancy or childhood, often the result of accidents or other health conditions. Congenital torticollis, on the other hand, occurs around the time of birth and is more likely to be (but not always) caused by birth trauma. In some cases, congenital torticollis is the result of the infant having a misaligned spine or being in an unusual position while in womb, but it can also be caused by things like birth-assisting tools during delivery or improper pulling or maneuvering during a breech delivery.
A child with congenital torticollis might show symptoms right away, but it also may take weeks for symptoms to become evident. Two of the biggest symptoms of infant torticollis is the child’s head constantly tilting in one direction or a soft lump in the neck area. Stiffness or swelling in the child’s neck muscles are other common symptoms. You may also notice tremors in the child’s head or that one of their shoulders looks like it’s positioned higher on the body than the other. Hip dysplasia is another condition that tends to be common in infants with torticollis.
If your child has congenital torticollis, the good news is that most infants with the condition are able to recover with proper treatment. In many cases, stretching exercises are enough to help correct the problem. If the issue can’t be solved with physical therapy, surgery may be needed once the child gets a little bit older. The sooner torticollis is diagnosed, the better the odds are that the child won’t suffer any long-term effects. However, if torticollis goes undiagnosed, the child could potentially develop conditions like scoliosis or plagiocephaly or experience chronic muscle swelling or numbness in the affected area.
It’s always deeply upsetting to know your child has an injury, especially if there’s a chance that the injury could have been prevented. If you have a child with congenital torticollis, contact a birth trauma lawyer to find out more about your legal options. Goodwin & Scieszka has attorneys who are experienced in helping parents just like you whose children were injured around the time of birth. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.