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Spotlight on Birth Injuries

August 5, 2019 Pegalis Law Group

The birth of a baby is a highly-anticipated event, and most of the time, it’s a joyous occasion. When birth injuries occur, however, joy quickly turns to trauma. Some birth injuries are temporary, while others cause life-long damage. Some are immediately recognized, while some birth injuries aren’t recognized until the infant fails to meet milestones such as sitting up, crawling, walking, or speaking.. Often, birth injuries are the tragic consequence of medical practices that fail to protect the child from avoidable harm during delivery.

One such birth injury is Erb’s palsy. This condition involves nerve damage resulting from an injury to the upper arm, and often happens because of excessive stretching of the baby’s head, neck, shoulders, and arms. During a difficult birth, particularly one in which the head is delivered but one shoulder is held back by the mother’s pelvic bone, a caregiver may exert too much force by pulling the baby free, and this can damage the brachial plexus nerves. Because these nerves control the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand muscles, a child with Erb’s palsy can experience loss of feeling and weakness in the affected arm, sometimes even to the point of total paralysis. Using extraction tools raises the risk of Erb’s palsy.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a brain-related condition and is not always due to a birth injury. It can be the result of abnormal brain development in early pregnancy, often caused by exposure to an illness like rubella, varicella, or toxoplasmosis. Hemorrhaging inside the brain is another cause of cerebral palsy. Sometimes, however, it results from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, a birth injury that deprives the newborn brain of oxygen. Sometimes, the lack of oxygen can be alleviated by prompt delivery. Proper monitoring during the delivery process provides information on how the infant is doing. Decreases in the fetal heart rate is a sign of decreased oxygen to the baby’s brain. It requires action on the part of the medical care providers to promptly deliver the infant, so as to avoid permanent brain damage. A failure to have proper monitoring and delievery of the infant can be medical negligence. A child’s muscle control, coordination, and tone are all impacted by cerebral palsy, as are his or her reflex, posture, and balance. This condition can also negatively affect fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and oral motor functioning. The symptoms vary among people with cerebral palsy, so that a person with mild CP may not need any special help, but may walk a little awkwardly, while a person with severe CP might not be able to walk at all. There’s currently no cure for cerebral palsy, and while it doesn’t get worse over time, the exact symptoms can change over the course of a person’s lifetime. Some cases of CP are diagnosed early, but often it’s not discovered until the baby misses a milestone, so the parents may not realize that a birth injury has occurred.

The likelihood of birth injury is increased when doctors rely on extraction tools like forceps or vacuum extraction. Using these instruments can cause the soft tissues of the baby’s scalp to swell, or make marks on the scalp or face. It can create an area of bleeding under the cranial bones, damage the facial nerves, or cause broken bones. In addition to extraction tools, medical missteps like administration of the wrong medication, mishandling of the newborn, or improper management of the delivery can also result in a birth injury. If you are concerned about a misdiagnosis or possible medical error, contact the Pegalis Law Group, LLC. For 47 years, we have advocated for people of all ages, in order to help our clients financially and make healthcare safer for everyone. You can reach us today by calling (516) 726-1549.

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