New Jersey Infant Nerve Damage Lawyers
As a baby passes through the birth canal, its body is subject to stress and pressure. If the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal, a healthcare provider may use a forceps or vacuum extractor to assist with the delivery. The misuse of these tools can cause permanent nerve damage in newborns. “Nerve damage” refers to any kind of trauma that affects the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Nerve damage can result in many conditions, including palsy—a paralysis of part of the body. Many birth injuries are preventable, and doctor’s must use an abundance of caution when delivering a child from a mother’s birth canal to prevent harm to a child.
If your child sustained nerve damage during childbirth, and you suspect that your health care provider is responsible, the birth injury lawyers at Shebell & Shebell may be able to help you obtain compensation for your child’s injury.
Medical negligence can result in various types of nerve damage, including:
Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries (Including Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy)
Brachial plexus injuries (BPIs) involve damage to the bundle of nerves that originate near the upper spine, and transmit signals to the shoulder, neck, arms and hands. Damage may occur when the newborn’s head is forcibly pulled away from the neck or shoulder.
BPIs are one of the most common birth injuries, and usually occur because the baby became stuck during delivery and was pulled from the mother by a doctor or midwife. Improper positioning of the baby can also cause BPI, such as when a baby presents feet first in the breech position. Whenever a baby becomes stuck in the birth canal, it can be considered an obstruction of labor, also referred to as dystocia. The most common type of dystocia is shoulder dystocia, when the baby’s head appears but its shoulder is stuck inside the mother’s pelvic bone. If excessive force is used to remove a baby in this position, the brachial plexus nerves can sustain damage.
There are three types of BPI, which are characterized by the degree of paralysis experienced by the newborn. The least severe type is called neuropraxia, or “stretch BPI.” When the nerve is stretched, damage recognized early on tends to reverse after several weeks of healing. A more severe BPI is neuroma, or “rupture BPI,” which occurs when the nerve is stretched beyond its limit and torn, but remains attached to the spine. Certain less severe neuromas may be repaired by surgery to reconnect the torn nerves. The third type of BPI, called avulsion, is when the nerve is completely torn from the spinal cord. This results in complete paralysis because the spinal cord can no longer send signals to the body. Babies who suffer from avulsion BPI can have difficulty using their legs on the injured side of the body, or their growth can be stunted on the affected side.
BPIs are also classified according to the location of the damage. When a BPI occurs at the fifth, sixth and/or seventh cervical node of the spine, the injury is called Erb’s Palsy. Babies who suffer from Erb’s Palsy can have issues with their chest, shoulder, arm and thumb on the injured side of their body. When a BPI occurs at the eighth cervical node, or the first thoracic node, it is called Klumpke’s Palsy. Children who suffer from this type of BPI have mobility issues with their wrist and hand on the affected side. Finally, when the entire brachial nerve is damaged, it is referred to as a pan injury.
Brachial plexus nerve injuries are sometimes referred to as peripheral nerve damage. Aside from a traumatic assisted delivery, peripheral nerve damage can occur if a baby is exposed to toxins while in utero that effect nerve development. Another cause of peripheral nerve injury is untreated infection in the baby while the mother is pregnant.
Facial Nerve Palsy
Facial nerve palsy can be a congenital condition, or, more commonly, it is caused by the misuse of forceps. Other factors associated with the condition include: macrosomia (a large sized infant), certain birth positions and the presence of uterine fibroids in the mother.
Symptoms of facial nerve palsy include an asymmetric facial expression, difficulty feeding, difficulty closing the eyelids, speech problems and an inability to make different facial expressions, and bruising on the affected side of the face.
Facial nerve palsy is often a temporary condition that resolves of its own accord over time. However, if it is not determined to be congenital, and persists after the child reaches its first birthday, surgery may be required to repair the damage. Infants with this condition should be monitored to ensure that they are growing and developing properly. The child should also see an ophthalmologist to ensure that there are no corneal abrasions. If a child has difficulty closing his or her eyelids, eye drops and ointment may be necessary. As the child grows older, speech therapy and physical therapy are also essential for proper treatment.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are very rare, and usually result from a breech delivery (involving traction to the spine or hyperextension of the newborn’s neck) or the misuse of forceps. Babies who suffer spinal cord injuries during childbirth can suffer complete paralysis, neurological problems or death.
The Birth Injury Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Represent Victims of Nerve Damage
If you suspect that obstetric malpractice caused harm to your newborn, the qualified attorneys at Shebell & Shebell can help. We have experience in all types of birth injury actions. For a free evaluation of your claim, call us at 866-957-5237 or contact us online.