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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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Immediate Treatment of Birth Brain Injuries

Injuries such as brachial plexus injuries can occur when an infant becomes wedged or stuck in the birth canal during a difficult birth. As a result, there may be nerve damage in the child’s limbs due to the brachial plexus region ( a group of nerves located near the neck and shoulder) being squeezed or pinched for an extended period. In some cases, the nerve damage is not long-lasting and repairs and heals on its own, but there are times when physicians need to intervene to make sure the child receives the most effective treatment.

Elk & Elk

Types of Injuries Resulting from Birth Injuries

There are four main types of injuries that can be sustained from brachial plexus trauma, and each one affects the nerves differently:

  • Stretch: The most common form of injury and the baby’s nerve is stretched but not ripped as a result of birth. The injury is located outside the spinal cord and any nerves damaged will heal on their own (usually) during first three months of life.
  • Rupture: The roots of the damaged nerve are ripped but not where it attaches to spine. This is also a common injury occurring outside the spinal cord, and there is a possibility it may need to be corrected surgically.
  • Avulsion: A less common injury in which the roots of the nerve are ripped from the spinal area, and it is situated at the spinal cord. There is no surgical solution for it, and damaged tissue has to be replaced. Can also affect the diaphragm and eyelid of afflicted side.
  • Neuroma: There is scar tissue present after the nerve attempted to heal by itself and it is putting pressure on the damaged nerve, or it could affect the function of the nerve. It may require tendon transfer or nerve reconstruction surgery.

Treatment Options

After a physician has evaluated your newborn and determined the type of injury present; they will usually look at birth history, a physical exam, and X-rays to check for fractures. Once the necessary data is gathered, a referral to begin therapy will be given. It is the therapist that will show you how to do exercises to safely move the damaged arm to maintain the range of motion. Regular physical exams will determine if the nerve has healed on its own.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists should monitor your child’s progress for the first six months of their life and will work on exercises to:

  • Keep the joints mobile
  • Prevent joints, muscles, and tendons from shortening and hardening (contracture)
  • Give sensory stimulation

Surgery for Severe Cases

After six months treatment, if your child is still unable to bring their hand to their mouth (flex the elbow) they could require nerve surgery. Prior to any operation being performed, an electromyogram (EMG) can be administered to test which type of reparative surgery will be the best option for your child. The options available are nerve graft, repair, transfer, or neurolysis.

You need to remember that there are options available for your child if they suffer a brachial plexus injury during birth. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the chances are great that your child can make a full recovery. There are therapeutic options that can get your child back to full health.