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Medical malpractice: Birth injuries may result from doctor error

Expectant parents will tell you all they want is a healthy baby.

Sometimes, they don't get that wish.

Birth injuries can occur that result in conditions called cerebral palsy or Erb's palsy. Both can result from complications of childbirth, even though cerebral palsy can occur under other circumstances.

Just what are cerebral palsy and Erb's palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the all-encompassing term for a variety of conditions that affect the brain function and body movement of a baby. An injury to the baby's brain while in the womb, during delivery or after birth, can cause cerebral palsy, as can a lack of oxygen reaching the baby's brain during delivery.

Cerebral palsy can result from situations that include:

  • The attending physician failing to see the baby is lacking adequate oxygen. Once that is recognized, the doctor should perform a cesarean section, without delay.
  • A mother's use of prescription drugs during pregnancy.
  • Extremely premature birth.
  • Prolonged bleeding in the baby's brain, usually resulting from head trauma during delivery.

Cerebral palsy isn't generally recognized immediately as it can take time to show up. Symptoms include failure to reach developmental milestones, abnormal muscle tone, involuntary movements, and vision or hearing problems.

Erb's palsy, also called brachial palsy, affects approximately two out of every 1,000 babies and happens when a baby has an injury to the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus consists of nerves that go from the spinal cord to the arm. It occurs most frequently when the baby's head, shoulder or neck suffer excessive pressure during delivery. The brachial plexus can be stretched too far, tearing or rupturing nerves.

Erb's palsy can cause a limp or paralyzed arm or limited movement in the baby's hands and fingers. Nerve damage can be permanent, but if no tearing happened, swelling and bruising should go away over time and normal movement could be possible. Surgery could be necessary to fix the issue.

Anytime a child is affected by a birth injury, there is cause for worry. It's difficult having a sick child, coping with both the emotional and financial ramifications. In the case of cerebral palsy and Erb's palsy, the doctor could have been at fault. It's wise for parents to discuss the situation with an attorney to determine if they could have a medical malpractice claim.

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