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What causes brachial plexus injuries?

A brachial plexus injury is an injury to the upper nerves in the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that start in the neck and move into the upper body, affecting the feeling in a person's arm, including his or her shoulder, forearm and hand. These nerve injuries occur when a person's shoulder is forced downward simultaneously while the neck stretches away from the shoulder.

A brachial plexus injury may arise as a birth injury when an infant gets caught in the mother's birth canal. Such injuries often occur during breech births, when the baby's feet or buttocks exit the mother's birth canal first, instead of the baby's head. A doctor who forcefully pulls the baby free may damage the brachial plexus nerves, thereby injuring the upper nerves. This condition is called Erb's palsy and can be a traumatic diagnosis for new parents.

Brachial plexus injuries can severely limit a person's range of motion, as they affect his or her upper limb area. Additionally, further serious complications, such as stiff joints, chronic pain, loss of feeling, muscle atrophy and permanent disability, may arise from brachial plexus injuries.

The birth of a child is a miraculous and emotional event for a family, but unfortunately, when managed by negligent doctors, serious and life-altering consequences may result. A doctor who does not handle the birth of a family's child with the utmost care can cause the baby to suffer from Erb's palsy. It can be overwhelming for new parents to face the challenges that come with having a child with Erb's palsy, but an experienced personal injury attorney can assist by advising parents of their options following an experience with a negligent doctor.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Brachial plexus injury - Causes," accessed on Feb. 13, 2015

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