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Standard of Care and Birth Injury

Posted in Birth Injury, Blog on April 29, 2008

When speaking and reading about medical malpractice and medical negligence, we often hear the words “standard of care.” In tort law, standard of care is the degree of prudence and caution required of a medical professional who is under a duty of care. A breach of standard of care is necessary to prove medical negligence.

Legally speaking, standard of care is how similarly qualified practitioners would have managed the patient’s care under the exact same or similar circumstances. A medical malpractice plaintiff (and his legal team) must establish the appropriate standard of care and demonstrate that the standard of care had been breached by defendant (medical professional).

Birth Injury

Sometimes the joy of childbirth fades quickly when parents realize there may be a problem with the delivery of their child. One of the most common types of birth injuries is called a Brachial Plexus Injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand. When those nerves are damaged, brachial plexus injuries occur.

How Do Brachial Plexus Injuries Occur?

During childbirth, shoulder dystocia may occur causing a very difficult delivery. Shoulder dystocia occurs when, after delivery of the baby’s head, the baby’s anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. The rest of the baby does not follow the head easily out of the vagina as it usually does during normal deliveries. When a baby’s shoulders become impacted during delivery, the brachial nerves stretch or tear.

Medical Error

Brachial plexus birth injuries are typically the result of medical negligence, and they often can be prevented. Failure to properly estimate the baby’s weight, perform a c-section when necessary, recognize cases of gestation diabetes, and use of excessive force during delivery can all result in brachial plexus birth injuries.

It is estimated that one or two out of every 1,000 babies is born with a brachial plexus injury. One of the most common brachial plexus injury is called Erbs palsy and results in your newborn being able to move one arm but not the other. Most infants born with brachial plexus injuries will recover both movement and sensation in the affected arm without surgery, but if the nerves do not recover on their own, your child may require surgery and/or other treatments.

Limited Treatment Options and Long-term Damage

If your baby does not recover from his brachial plexus injury, your doctor should examine him at one-month-old and three-months-old. If there is no change over the first three months, nerve surgery may be recommended; however, nerve surgery will not restore normal function in infants older than one year. Because nerves grow at a rate of an inch per month, it may take months or years for nerves repaired at the neck to reach the muscles of the lower arm and hand.

Children who suffer birth injuries may live with the following:

  • Paralysis of the shoulder, arm and/or hand
  • Loss of feeling in the shoulder, arm and/or hand
  • Hand which does not function properly
  • Limp hand or fingers
  • Shorter than normal arm
  • Rotated arm
  • Winged shoulder blade
  • Downward sloped shoulder
  • Flexed elbow
  • Atrophy of the deltoid, biceps, and brachialis muscles

If you would like to learn more about your child’s birth injury and what legal action you can take against medical professionals, contact Weiss & Paarz, P.C. today for a free consultation. We serve birth injury victims and their families throughout New Jersey and the Philadelphia, PA area.



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