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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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BRACHIAL PLEXUS PALSY

Countless things can go wrong during the delivery of an infant. We do not hear much about shoulder dystocia, which represents a birth delivery medical condition that can place an infant at risk the risk of incurring serious injuries. The potential life-threatening medical condition occurs when an infant’s shoulder becomes stuck near or at a mother’s pelvic region.

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One result of shoulder dystocia is called brachial plexus palsy.

An Overview

The relatively obscure part of the body represents an intricate network of nerves that comprise the lower cervical and upper thoracic central nervous system. This important nerve center provides motor and sensory energy to the hands and arms. At the base of the neck lies the center of the nerves that form the plexus. Palsy to the vital nerve transmission center occurs when damage to the brachial plexus causes the nerves to the arm to malfunction. The term palsy refers to the inability to move any muscles in the body, and the acute medical condition often leads to permanent paralysis.

The Importance of Nerves

The sensitive nerves that branch from the plexus area are extremely vital and important. As soft, circular looking components that run throughout the body, nerves include a myriad of small filaments that resemble the composition of much larger electrical cords and telephone cables. The tiny filaments transmit electrical impulses from the brain that control muscles. Nerve fibers from the base of the neck receive electrical impulses from the brain that control arm, hand, and shoulder muscles.

Brachial Plexus Nerves

The nerves of the vital, yet not a well-known part of the body travel out of the spinal cord just beneath the collarbone near the armpits. From the armpits, these nerves disperse to contact other nerves that manipulate the muscles located in the hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. Because of shoulder dystocia, the nerves connected to both upper limbs become damaged and in some cases, irreparably inoperable. This means the muscles your child needs to move one or both arms no longer work.

Complete nerve damage is called Total Plexus Palsy, while health care professionals refer to partial nerve damage as Erb’s Palsy.

When Infants Suffer from Palsy

Shoulder dystocia causes an infant’s neck, head, and shoulder to stretch, which can severely damage the nerves which travel from the brachial area. Doctors can prevent the birth injury by first making a quick diagnosis and then implementing subtle maneuvers to dislodge an infant’s shoulder from the birth canal. The subtle maneuvers must prevent damage to the sensitive nerve filaments that protrude from the area.

Older children can also endure the suffering caused by damage to the plexus because of an injury from physical contact. The severity of any nerve damage depends on the age of the child, as well as the power of the physical impact. Most infants and children require only time to heal brachial plexus injuries. However, when an infant requires surgery, the birth injury typically creates lifelong painful symptoms that require the combination of intensive physical therapy and administration of pain medications. Some children require arm and shoulder splints to ensure nerve regeneration in hand, wrist, elbow, and arm joints.

Brachial Plexus Palsy
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