What Are Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries?

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Sep 20, 2016

Klumpke paralysis, also known as Dejerine-Klumpke palsy or Klumpke's palsy, is a type of paralysis that generally affects newborn babies, but can also occur later in life. Erb’s palsy is a more common form of birth injury, but has similar effects to Klumpke paralyses. Klumpke’s paralysis affects the muscles in the person’s hand and forearm, and is caused when the first thoracic nerve and the eighth cervical nerve in the brachial plexus are injured; Erb’s palsy affects the muscles in the person’s upper arm, and is caused when the fifth and the sixth cervical nerve in the brachial plexus are injured. These nerves are often damaged during a difficult delivery, and can affect the person throughout their entire life.

Causes of Klumpke Paralysis and Erb’s Palsy

  • Difficult births: There is an increased risk of an injury to the nerves in the brachial plexus when the infant’s shoulders have difficulty passing through the birth canal, which can occur during prolonged labor, a breech delivery is the infant is larger than average, or if the infant’s shoulder is difficult to deliver after the head has emerged, also known as shoulder dystocia. If medical professionals are concerned about the risk of a difficult delivery, they will often perform a cesarean section (C-section).

While difficult births are the most common cause of Kumpke’s paralyses and Erb’s palsy, there are a variety of ways someone could receive this type of injury later in life.

  • Trauma: Anything from an automobile accident, to a fall, to an injury caused by violence can damage to the brachial plexus.
  • Contact sports: Athletes, especially football players, are at risk of injuring the nerves in their brachial plexus during high-velocity impacts with other players.
  • Tumors: Tumors that put pressure on, grow in, or spread to the nerves of the brachial plexus can damage the nerves and cause paralysis.

Types of Injuries

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke list four different types of injuries to the nerves in the brachial plexus that can lead to varying severities of Klumpke paralysis and Erb’s palsy:

  • Avulsion: The nerves are torn where they attach to the spine. This is the most serious severe type of injury.
  • Rupture: The nerves are torn away from where they attach to the spine.
  • Neuroma: The nerves were torn, and have healed, but the scar tissue is putting pressure on the nerve, preventing it from properly conducting signals to the muscles.
  • Neuropraxia: The nerves are damaged, but have not torn.

Klumpke paralysis and Erb’s palsy are severe, life-changing injuries that can be caused by someone’s negligence, especially when it affects a newborn. In cases where someone may be at fault, hiring a qualified birth injury lawyer is an important step to take when seeking the compensation you deserve. At Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge, our birth injury attorneys understand just how much Klumpke paralysis and Erb’s palsy can affect the lives of you and your loved ones, and are prepared to fight for your rights. Contact us through our website to tell us about your case, or give us a call at (615) 933-2893 to set up a meeting with one of our attorneys.

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