Besides cerebral palsy, which is one of the birth injuries that can occur after a traumatic birth, there is brachial palsy which may be relatively unknown. Brachial palsy refers to an injury to the brachial plexus and is often the result of negligence during childbirth. In this article we will delve into two major types of brachial palsy – erbs & klumpke’s palsy.
What is the Brachial Plexus: Function and Anatomy?
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves (nerve plexus) formed by the anterior rami of the lower four cervical nerves and the first thoracic nerve (C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1). The nerves are responsible for the movement and sensation of the arms as they receive signals from the spinal cord and transmit them to the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
The brachial plexus starts at the root of the neck, passes through the axilla and then runs through the entire upper arm, forearm and hand. Although these nerves are strong, they can be injured.
Understanding Brachial Plexus Injury
Brachial plexus injuries can happen during childbirth and occur when the head, neck, shoulder or arm of the baby is stretched, pulled, yanked or twisted. Such nerve damage can result in temporary or permanent injury, loss of sensation and motor function in the affected arm. Brachial palsy is therefore the result of injury to the brachial plexus.
These injuries can occur during a traumatic birth. There is an increased risk of sustaining this injury if the baby is abnormally large, breeched or if there is prolonged labour. Brachial palsy may also occur if the baby is stuck in the birth canal and the baby’s arm is being pulled to facilitate the delivery process.
There are two forms of injuries that can happen when there is an injury to the brachial plexus. There is Erb’s palsy and Klumpke palsy. Both conditions can be a result of medical negligence and if this is the case, parents of the child may be able to make a compensation claim. The compensation received after a successful claim can go towards assisting the family to give the child a good life despite the injury.
Erb’s Palsy: Causes and Symptoms
Erb’s palsy also known as Erb Duchenne palsy results when there is an injury to the brachial plexus nerve roots. In this case, the injury affects the upper arm. According to figures, this condition affects 1-2 babies in 1000 births. This condition affects the shoulder, upper arm and elbow resulting in conditions like shoulder dystocia. There may be partial or complete loss of sensation and motor function but the lower may not be affected although the sufferer may experience occasional tingling and numbness.
Some of the features of erb’s palsy include-
Paralysis of the upper arm such that the arm hangs limply from the shoulder.
There is loss of motion making the affected person unable to flex their elbow, lift their arm or lift objects upwards.
The forearm is internally rotated.
The palm of the hand points backwards often referred to as ‘waiter’s tip position’.
Numbness or tingling in the affected arm.
Decrease in muscle tone.
While some newborns may recover from the condition, some people suffer permanent damage. This is why compensation in such cases can be quite large so as to cater for the individual’s needs for life.
What are the Signs of Klumpke’s Palsy?
Klumpke’s Palsy on the other hand results as a result of injury to the brachial plexus nerves that run through the arm from the spinal cord. This condition affects the forearm, wrist, hands and fingers. The condition results in weakness and numbness in the affected area.
Some of the features of Klumpke’s Palsy include-
Limpness of the forearm, with little arm and hand movement.
Muscle weakness and loss of sensation.
Partial or complete paralysis of the affected arm.
Stiffness in the joints.
“Claw hand” where the fingers and wrists are tightened.
Arm is bent at the elbow and held tightly to the body.
This condition results in reduced muscle tone in the hands meaning that the person may be unable to do certain things efficiently with their hands. They may have trouble writing, typing, holding an object or even buttoning up a shirt.
Difference Between Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy
There is a little difference in these two conditions though caused by the same thing- an injury to the brachial plexus. Both conditions affect the functionality of the arm but the difference comes in the areas of the arm they affect
Erb’s palsy affects the upper part of the arm which includes the shoulder, upper arm, biceps and elbow. Contrastingly, Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower arm which includes the forearm, wrists, hands and fingers.
Do You Have A potential klumpke Palsy Claim?
If your child has suffered any of these conditions- erb’s palsy or klumpke’s palsy as a result of medical malpractice during childbirth, you may be able to bring forward erbs palsy claim. If you are the victim and suffered this condition as a child, you may also be able to make compensation claims.
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