This week – October 16-22 – marks International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week – a week devoted to raising awareness about this lesser known birth injury. Brachial plexus injuries – also known as Erb’s Palsy - generally occur during the birthing process and are characterized by weakness in the arm, loss of feeling in the arm and partial or even total paralysis of the arm.
Thousands of newborns are affected by this birth injury each year, with statistics estimating that brachial plexus injuries occur in 2 to 5 out of 1,000 births. Brachial plexus injuries result from damage to nerves in the neck that affect the arm, shoulder and hand movement. These injuries may be caused by the stretching of nerves around the shoulder during birth, often the result of extreme force being applied through the pulling of a newborn’s arm or head during birth. During breech deliveries, excessive pressure on raised shoulders may also cause this birth injury. In nearly all cases, the health care provider who delivered the baby caused the injury. If your infant has sustained a brachial plexus injury, it is important to contact a knowledgeable California birth injury attorney to investigate what happened and determine your next steps.
Several factors point to an increased risk of an infant sustaining a brachial plexus injury, and by taking appropriate precautions, health care workers may be able to avert this injury.