Medical Malpractice – Cerebral Palsy & Other Birth Injuries

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The birth of a child is a joyous event, but for some parents medical malpractice can turn that joy into unusually challenging issues. Some of the more common birth injuries include cerebral palsy and brachial plexus injuries.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a broad term used to describe chronic movement or posture disorders. It’s most frequently caused by faulty development of, or damage to, the areas of the brain that affect motor functions. Cerebral palsy can be caused by lack of oxygen or trauma to the brain during birth, but may sometimes be the result of later damage to the brain.

Faulty medical procedures during birth that may contribute to cerebral palsy include:

  1. Improper use of the labor-inducing drug Pitocin
  2. Failure to anticipate birth complications when there are maternal health problems
  3. Failure to respond appropriately to bleeding or umbilical cord problems
  4. Failure to respond to fetal distress
  5. Delay in ordering a cesarean section

Cerebral palsy symptoms usually appear before age 3. These symptoms include:

  1. Poor head control
  2. Difficulty feeding and sucking
  3. Delays in motor development
  4. Lying in awkward positions
  5. Easily or frequently startled
  6. Delay in crawling, walking or pushing up on all fours
  7. Favoring of one hand over the other
  8. Abnormal crawling
  9. Overdeveloped or underdeveloped muscles (child will seem floppy or stiff)

Brachial Plexus

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulders, arms and hands. These nerves can stretch or tear when a baby’s shoulders become impacted during delivery. Symptoms of brachial plexus injuries include:

  1. Limp or paralyzed arms
  2. Lack of muscle control in the shoulder, arm, elbow, hand or wrist
  3. Lack of feeling in the arm or hand

Some brachial plexus injuries heal without treatment, but others require physical therapy or surgical nerve reconnection.

Types of brachial plexus injuries include:

  1. Erb’s Palsy affects the muscles around the shoulder and elbow, and is the most common of the brachial plexus injuries. It is frequently caused when one of the baby’s shoulders becomes stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone during birth.
  2. Klumpke’s Palsy is characterized by lack of movement in the wrist or hand.
  3. Complete Palsy affects all of the brachial plexus nerves.
  4. Horner’s Syndrome is a rare type of brachial plexus injury that affects the facial nerves. Symptoms include constricted pupils, elevation or drooping of the eyelid, retraction of the eyeball and increased pink color and warmth in the ears and nose.

Typical medical malpractice causes of brachial plexus injuries include:

  1. Failure to deliver a larger baby by cesarean section
  2. Failure to adequately deliver the baby in cases where the mother’s pelvis is too small to accommodate the baby’s shoulders
  3. Use of excessive pressure-often with forceps or vacuum devices-on the baby’s head, neck or shoulders during delivery

Contact Information

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