Four Things You Should Know About Infant Spinal Cord Injuries

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Sep 19, 2019

No one wants a child to suffer a preventable injury, but statistics show it can and does happen – especially when treating medical professionals provide substandard care. When it happens to your child, having the right information becomes critical to providing the care they need, and exploring your rights for a potential birth injury lawsuit.

Although medical negligence can result in all types of birth injuries, some of the most concerning are those involving the spinal cord. That’s because injuries to an infant’s neck or back have an overwhelming potential for causing long-term or lifelong problems – from physical limitations for the child to tremendous emotional and financial repercussions experienced by their families.

24/7 Support & Guidance From Proven Birth Injury Lawyers

Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge has been fighting for families across Tennessee and beyond since 1977, and has amassed a record of proven success in complex civil claims involving medical malpractice and birth injuries – including a record-setting $22M malpractice verdict recovered for a past client.

Though we’re available 24/7 to help families learn more about their legal options following birth-related injuries, we know many begin their journeys by first acquainting themselves with the facts and laws at hand. For that, we’ve put together a few things to know about infant spinal cord injuries.

1. What Are Infant Spinal Cord Injuries?

Infant spinal cord injuries may encompass a number of physical ailments involving newborns or very young children.

Damage to an infant’s spinal cord may be the result of blunt force trauma – be it a traumatic injury from a fall, or serious damage which occurs during childbirth – or from a medical malady affecting the spine. It may also stem from diagnostic errors, failure to diagnose / misdiagnosis of conditions like spina bifida, which involves spinal nerves that are not completely enclosed by the vertebrae, and which are more susceptible to risks of injuries.

There are various levels and classifications of spinal cord injuries which may affect different parts of the spine, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (12 vertebrae in the chest area), lumbar (5 vertebrae in the lower back), and sacral spine (vertebrae between the pelvis and end of the spine). Medical professionals typically classify spinal cord injuries on a grade that corresponds with the injured person’s motor function below the level of their injury.

2. Potential Causes

When it comes to childbirth, there are various causes of neck, upper back, and lower back injuries which would not have otherwise occurred had the standard of care been met. These may include:

  • Difficult deliveries where stress, traction, and force is placed on the baby’s spinal cord;
  • Breech deliveries, hyperextension of the fetal head in other abnormal birthing positions, and rotational stresses placed upon the spinal plexus;
  • Brachial plexus injuries which cause Palsy-related damage to the spinal cord / nerves;
  • Improper use of delivery-assistive devices, such as medical forceps or vacuum extractors;
  • Improper use of labor-inducing medications (i.e Pitocin) which create excessive or overly forceful contractions;
  • Failures to diagnose potential risk factors during pregnancy;
  • Failures to perform a C-section which should have been performed given the circumstances, or delayed C-sections;
  • Failures to adequately monitor fetal distress during labor and delivery, and to respond appropriately.

3. Symptoms, Effects & Damages

Because the spinal cord is such a crucial component of the human body, any damage to its structures can pose significant risks for profound and permanent consequences, including disability and lifelong impairment. Those physical injuries, in turn, can result in extensive physical, financial, and emotional harms for all involved.

  • Symptoms: The physical signs and symptoms of spinal cord injuries in infants will vary depending on the type of injury and its severity. Generally, however, they may include lost or limited sensation / response to touch, inability to move or limited movements, bladder and bowel control problems, delayed reflexes or periodic spasms, signs of pain resulting from nerve damage, breathing difficulties, and weakness.
  • Long-Term Effects: A prognosis for infants with spinal cord injuries also depends on the nature of the injury and its severity (complete or incomplete). In some cases, incomplete damage to the spinal cord means the brain may still be able to communicate and send messages to the spinal cord, meaning motor sensory and motor function may be preserved or improved. In others, there may be a complete and total loss of all motor / sensory function below the injury level, and a greater likelihood the child will suffer from permanent paralysis and disability.
  • Other Damages: There are innumerable and overwhelmingly profound repercussions associated with serious injuries affecting newborns, chief among them being the emotional anguish families must endure when their child faces a grim prognosis, or a lifetime of limitations and challenges. From a monetary perspective, there are also many expenses related to caring for a child with spinal cord damage; from the need for long-term or lifelong medical care, special evaluations or surgeries as they grow and develop, special medical devices and medications, accommodations, assistive living care, reduced earning potential / lost wages, and more.

4. Victims’ Rights

If your child suffered a spinal cord injury during birth, or as a result of any other preventable accident, you may have the right to seek justice and compensation for your damages. In terms of birth injuries, professional health care providers are held to high standards for meeting their duty of care – meaning they must act in accordance to accepted standards and procedures of their profession.

Should a doctor, nurse, or another provider fail to act as a reasonably skilled medical professional would act under the same or similar circumstances, they can potentially be held liable for resulting injuries – including any spinal cord damage that necessitates short or long-term medical attention and other losses for the family.

Questions About Your Case? Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge Can Help.

Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge has decades of experience helping families fight for justice following preventable injuries, including catastrophic and life-altering birth injuries. If your child has been injured as a result of what you believe to be medical malpractice, call (615) 933-2893 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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