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What are Brachial Plexus Injuries?

The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that is located in the neck. These nerves are primarily responsible for movement and sensation in a person’s arm and hand. Suffering an injury to the brachial plexus can result in a variety of long-term or serious injuries. If your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury due to hospital negligence, you should consult with an experienced Maryland brachial plexus injury lawyer. At Bennett & Heyman, P.A., we are dedicated to providing you with diligent legal representation that is necessary to pursue your case. Our lawyers are here to explain brachial plexus injuries and how they occur.

Types of Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries

As mentioned, the brachial plexus is an intricate bundle of nerves that are located between a person’s neck and shoulders. These nerves control a variety of functions from muscles in a person’s chest, shoulders, arms, and hands to sensation in the upper extremities.

In the United States, brachial plexus birth injuries (BPIs) happen in approximately 3 out of 1,000 births. A brachial plexus injury could be caused by a variety of circumstances, from medical malpractice to hospital negligence. Some injuries also depend on the part of the nerve bundle that was affected. The following is a list of types of brachial plexus injuries that may occur at birth.


Neuropraxia, or the stretching of a brachial plexus nerve, occurs when a nerve is mildly stretched but not completely torn. An infant will usually recover from this injury naturally within three months. However, if the nerve is excessively stretched, a child may need nonsurgical treatment to recover properly.

Additionally, a rupture is a more severe type of nerve stretching injury. This injury usually occurs when a child’s nerve is torn either partially or fully.


An avulsion is when the nerve roots of the brachial plexus are completely ripped from the spinal cord. This is the most severe type of brachial plexus injury as it requires the damaged nerves to be surgically replaced. An avulsion may cause a child to suffer from a droopy eyelid on one side of their face and may also affect their ability to breathe.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is an injury to two or three nerves in brachial plexus that control a child’s muscles in their shoulder and bicep. An infant should receive immediate medical treatment to avoid suffering long-term effects of Erb’s palsy, like shoulder dislocation and muscle atrophy.

Total Plexus Involvement

Total plexus involvement is an injury that affects all the nerves of the brachial plexus and may cause a child to lose movement in their shoulder, arm, or hand. This injury accounts for about one-third of brachial plexus injuries.

Horner’s Syndrome

While the brachial plexus nerves typically handle movement and sensation within the shoulder and arm, Horner’s syndrome is an injury that primarily affects functions regarding a child’s face. For example, this injury could lead to a newborn having decreased production of sweat in a certain area of their face. This injury may also cause a child to suffer from droopy eyelids and smaller pupils in their eyes.

To learn more about brachial plexus birth injuries, you should consult with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyer.

Common Causes of BPIs

A variety of circumstances can cause brachial plexus birth injuries. Some causes of BPIs may occur naturally. For example, if a mother is delivering a child that is larger than the average weight of an infant (five to eight pounds), there is a higher chance the child may be injured while traveling through the birth canal. However, a BPI can also be the result of a doctor failing to diagnose an issue during a patient’s pregnancy.

The following is a list of risk factors that can increase the chances of your child suffering a brachial plexus injury:

  • Shoulder dystocia, or when a child’s shoulders become trapped against the bones of the mother’s pelvis during a delivery
  • A child being delivered feet or buttocks first (breech delivery)
  • Deliveries that last for an excessive amount of time
  • Diabetes or obesity during pregnancy
  • Improper use of birth-assisting tools

A physician or hospital could be liable for a BPI if there were other reasonable options available to deliver an infant without injury.

Our Baltimore Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You File a Claim Against a Negligent Doctor

If you or a family member suffered a serious brachial plexus injury, you should contact an experienced Baltimore personal injury attorney today. The injury attorneys at Bennett & Heyman, P.A. have decades of experience in handling a variety of injury cases, and we will use that experience to aggressively represent you and your child. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, you should contact Bennett & Heyman, P.A. at 410-429-7856, or contact us online.

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