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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 Prognosis

Brachial plexus palsy results from the nerve damage caused by an irregular birth delivery. The most common cause of the muscle nerve damage is called shoulder dystocia, which is the medical condition that happens when one of an infant’s shoulder lodges inside of the birth canal close to the pelvic region. Erb’s palsy represents the most common form of the medical condition caused by damage to arm and shoulder nerves. The most common form of the arm and shoulder nerve injuries provides us with insight on how physicians determine a prognosis.

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Brachial Plexus Palsy: Temporary or Permanent

Every prognosis differs, mostly because of the severity of the birth delivery injury. Infants can recover partial feeling of the affected sections of limbs or recover fully, with the assistance of a trained team of health care professionals that perform a wide variety of physical therapy exercises. Whether an infant experiences partial or full recovery does not diminish the importance of one fact: Recovery of any kind takes a considerable amount of time. Surgical procedures do not expedite recovery; surgical procedures merely prevent Erb’s palsy from turning into a life-threatening malady.

The Effect of Physical Therapy

Elk & Elk

Arm and shoulder plexus nerves require a considerable amount of time to grow in an infant and an even longer period of time to rejuvenate after incurring damage. However, a structured physical therapy regimen helps infants recover, to some extent, from the injury.

The key to physical therapy for a prognosis is the performance of repetitive motion exercises. Health care professionals must assist an infant in moving the affected arm and shoulder to activate nerve cells that accelerate the healing process. Physical therapy for infants requires the same delicate approach obstetricians use to deliver babies. Too much pressure on the affected limb can exacerbate nerve damage and thus, delay any type of recovery from the injury.

Typical Outcomes

Many cases do not create adverse long lasting effects. A physical therapy regimen over an extended period typically promotes the rejuvenation of damaged arm and shoulder muscle nerves. However, some infants grow up into children who live with the affected arm that is shorter than the other arm. The prognosis for this outcome is that the arm size difference will remain with the child through adulthood. Additional outcomes for infants that suffer from arm and shoulder nerve damage include the permanent weakening of the affected arm, as well as difficulty performing circular movements at the shoulder and/or the joint of an elbow. An infant can also experience a decreased motion range for the affected limb, increased skin sensitivity, and constant mild to moderate pain and discomfort.

The failure to diagnose and/or treat brachial plexus palsy in infants leads to a negative prognosis for your newborn. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), most injuries that cause a type of brachial plexus palsy heal in roughly 90 percent of all cases. However, if an infant does not receive prompt care because of nerve damage, the positive prognosis percentage decreases dramatically.

If you are a mother who experiences shoulder dystocia or some other type of birth delivery problem, you need to take the steps required to diagnose and if necessary, treat infant arm and shoulder nerve damage.