A human being is never more vulnerable than during the birth process.
Damages caused as a result of medical/nursing mismanagement during the birth process can be profound and irreversible.
Common missteps by healthcare professionals that result in severe and permanent injury during the birth process include:
- Delay in ordering a C-section
- Failure to use appropriate maneuvers to deliver a child whose shoulders are stuck behind the pubic bone (shoulder dystocia)
- Failure to anticipate birthing issues because of an entangled umbilical cord
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
- Failure to appropriately interpret the fetal monitor strip and to recognize and treat abnormal fetal heart tracings
These failures can cause nerve damage, brain damage, or even death. Common terms used for damage caused as a result of these failures include: brachial plexus injuries, cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.
Brachial Plexus injuries
- Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s shoulder is impacted behind the maternal symphysis pubis. Brachial plexus injuries can occur in cases of shoulder dystocia if excessive traction is applied to the baby’s head and neck in an attempt to pull the baby out of the birth canal.
- Once a shoulder dystocia is diagnosed, there are recognized maneuvers that the standard of care requires be utilized to disengage the impacted anterior shoulder from behind the pubic bone so the baby can be delivered without tearing or stretching the brachial plexus nerve bundle.
- Failure to follow standard protocol and technique can result in permanent injury to the baby. Excessive traction on the brachial plexus nerves (which is caused by pulling on the head and neck when that shoulder is lodged behind the birth canal) causes them to be stretched and damaged. Nerves innervate muscle and commands for muscle movement and control are communicated through these nerves. Without nerves, muscles cannot function, move, or grow. Essentially all of the muscles of the arm are innervated by the brachial plexus nerves, and if this nerve bundle is permanently damaged, none of the arm muscles can grow or function properly. This can result in permanent inability of the child to use the muscles of the arm.
- Treatment includes immediate physical and occupational therapy. If there is no improvement, a referral to a pediatric neurologist is a must. Sometimes, surgery to graft tendons, muscles, and nerves can be done. This surgery needs to be done as early as possible. Even if the nerves can be repaired or grafted, recovery may be incomplete.
- Cerebral palsy occurs when the brain does not develop normally. It occurs for a number of reasons including viral infections, bacterial infections, lack of oxygen, or blunt force trauma to the head.
- A known cause of cerebral palsy is failure to accomplish delivery through a timely C-section if the baby manifests an inability to tolerate the labor process.
- Cerebral palsy is characterized by impairments in the ability to hear, see or speak. Often, a seizure disorder is present. Impaired intellectual development is also common which may range from moderate behavior disorders to severe and profound loss of neurologic function requiring that the child have complete and total assist for all functions of daily life.
- There is no cure for cerebral palsy. Only the symptoms can be treated. Sometimes a feeding tube is necessary. Sometimes the baby is oxygen dependent. Usually these babies are unable to move on their own and are completely dependent on their caregivers.
- Severely affected babies have short life spans and usually die from complications of their impairments, often infection.
If your child has suffered a permanent injury due to cerebral palsy or brachial plexus damage, contact Wormington & Bollinger today. We serve those who have suffered preventable medical complications throughout the State of Texas and have satisfied clients in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Arlington. We are committed to helping you investigate the cause of this injury, to determine who is responsible, and to lessen the financial burden it has imposed on you and your family.