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Identification of Brachial Plexus Injuries in Newborns


Injuries to children can be devastating for families, especially when an injury occurs during a child’s birth due to medical malpractice. Sometimes, birth injuries are not immediately apparent. A brachial plexus injury may not be noticed for a few days after birth.

The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that is responsible for sending signals from the spine to the hand, arm and shoulder. The injury can occur during a baby’s birth when the shoulder is pressed down and away from the baby’s head. If a baby’s upper nerves are injured, it is known as a condition called Erb’s palsy; damage to the lower nerves is called Klumpke’s palsy. Brachial plexus palsy is when both lower and upper nerves are damaged.

Risk Factors

If labor is prolonged or a baby comes out feet first instead of head first, there is a higher risk of injury to the baby’s brachial plexus. Improper positioning of the mother during birth and use of epidurals are also known to be factors. Also, if the baby’s shoulders are caught in the birth canal, the attending medical professional may use too much force pulling the baby out, causing trauma during delivery.


Symptoms of brachial plexus injuries include the following:

  • Absence of sensation or feeling in an arm or hand
  • Paralysis of an affected arm
  • Limp arms
  • Absence of control of muscle in the wrist, hand or arm
  • Use of fingers, but not arms
  • Use of arms, but not fingers

Brachial palsy injuries are also painful. Sometimes, this pain is described as a burning or a crushing sensation.


Treatments for brachial plexus injuries vary and some children heal without any treatment. If treatment is necessary, the baby may need physical therapy or surgery. Pain is often alleviated by medications or other types of therapy. Scar tissue caused by nerve damage may need to be surgically removed to make sure that the nerve can fully heal and function properly.

With proper treatment, babies may recover by the time they reach three or four months of age. With more severe injuries, there may be permanent or longer-lasting damage, especially if the injury is not immediately noticed.

Parents with babies suffering from an injury due to negligence or medical malpractice may be entitled to compensation and should consult with a birth injury lawyer.

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