It is always a sad and tragic event when a newborn infant is injured during childbirth. Unfortunately, birth injuries caused by health care professionals who commit errors in judgment that can lead to the injury or even death to the infant or the mother or both. When this occurs, the injured party typically consults a medical malpractice attorney to learn whether a complaint can be filed against the health care professional.
A specific birth injury sometimes sustained by babies over 9 lbs in weight, being delivered vaginally by a mother who has extreme weight gain is called “Shoulder Dystocia”. Dystocia is a combination of the prefix “dys-” meaning “bad” and “-tocia” referring to the conditions of childbirth or labor. Shoulder Dystocia happens when the baby’s head is delivered normally, but the baby’s shoulders become stuck and cannot pass through the lowest part of the mother’s pelvis.
When this condition presents itself, action must be taken immediately to free the child from the birth canal and ensure that the umbilical cord is not compressed. However, safely removing the large or macrosomic baby is challenging and complications can occur even with the best-trained medical personnel. Obstetricians are schooled in the use of several maneuvers that either reposition the infant or mother in order to free the baby’s shoulder and hopefully lead to a happy outcome. Unfortunately, sometimes the maneuvers are not done, or are not able to be done correctly, and the infant sustains damage.
The brachial plexus is a set of nerves originating from the spinal cord. It branches down either side of the neck, then travels under the armpit and down into each arm. The brachial plexus controls the muscle and skin sensations in each of the arms. When a brachial plexus birth injury happens, the location and the severity of the damage to the nerve system will determine how disabled the child will be in the near and far future.
If the nerve is stretched (neuropraxia), the injury is generally mild to moderate and may resolve without treatment within four to six months. Symptoms of neuropraxia may include sensations of numbness, burning, and trouble with coordination. Moderate to severe neuropraxia may require physical therapy. In the case of a torn or avulsed nerve, surgery will be required and total paralysis of the affected arm may still be the final unfortunate outcome.
In addition to large maternal weight gain and high birth weights, additional risk factors for shoulder dystocia occurring during childbirth include: maternal diabetes, breech births and multiple births. Obstetricians should closely monitor the predicted birth weight and due date of the baby, the mother’s weight gain, and mother’s glucose levels throughout the pregnancy in order to prepare for a possible C-Section to avoid the complications of Shoulder Dystocia.
Medical malpractice cases concerning birth injury can be extremely complicated and difficult to prove. A medical malpractice attorney (also called a “birth injury attorney”) can answer any questions you may have, including questions about the statute of limitations (the time limit you have after the event to initiate legal proceedings) for the state in which you live.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Note: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.
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In all of these situations, professional medical personnel such as the nurse, nurse practitioner, and/or the attending physician, physician assistant, and/or the medical facility, and the pharmacy would be the parties involved in a resulting medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a medical malpractice attorney.
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