Brachial Plexus Injury Treatment Options
There are many different ways a child can be injured during delivery or shortly after the time of birth, but one of the most common types of injuries involves damage to a child’s brachial plexus.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that spans across the upper chest area from the neck into the arm. These nerves control muscle movement in the shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and elbow, so when these nerves are damaged by an injury, a person can have a hard time moving any of these areas of the body. The nerves in the brachial plexus also control sensation in those areas of the body, so a person with a brachial plexus injury might experience a complete or partial loss of feeling in their arm or shoulder.
When brachial plexus injuries occur during delivery, it’s very commonly the result of shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the child’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. When this happens, doctors typically need to take extra steps to help the child along, whether it’s by manually maneuvering the child into a different position or by using birth-assisting tools. If the doctor isn’t careful, a brachial plexus injury can occur by pulling the head too far away from the shoulder.
Treatment options for a brachial plexus injury largely depends on the severity of the injury. The most common and least severe type of brachial plexus injury is called a neurapraxia, which occurs when nerves in the brachial plexus are stretched, but not torn. This type of injury typically clears up on its own within a few months without the need for surgery. A doctor may recommend simple physical therapy exercises to help the healing process along.
Neuromas are a little more severe than neurapraxia and occur when scar tissue grows around a damaged nerve. In some cases, neuroma may be able to clear up on its own if there is only a small amount of scar tissue. Treating the area with hot and cold compresses can help with the healing process. Surgery may be needed to remove the scar tissue if a larger amount of it has formed and it’s interfering with function or sensation in the area.
Ruptures and avulsions are the two most severe types of brachial plexus injuries. A rupture occurs when a nerve is stretched to the point that part of the nerve tears while avulsions occur when the root of the nerve is fully torn away from the spinal cord. Both of these types of injuries will require surgical treatment. Some types of surgery typically used to treat brachial plexus injuries include nerve grafts and nerve transfers.
While many types of brachial plexus injuries clear up on their own, more complicated cases are nothing to take lightly. If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury around the time of birth and needed surgery or other treatment as a result, it’s very important to talk to a birth trauma lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your legal options. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have lawyers who are experienced in handling birth trauma cases and can help you figure out how to move forward. Contact us today to get started.