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Possible Long-Term Complications of a Brachial Plexus Injury

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves located in the shoulder that is responsible for sending movement and sensory signals to the arm and hand. A brachial plexus injury is a common type of birth injury that can occur in a case of shoulder dystocia, where a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. If a physician does not respond properly to this medical emergency, a brachial plexus injury can lead to long-term complications for the infant. A birth injury attorney in Philadelphia may be able to help if your loved one suffered preventable harm.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy, also known as brachial plexus palsy, is a nerve condition that can result in muscle weakness, sensory changes or a loss of movement in the affected arm. It can occur due to damage to the infant’s brachial plexus during a difficult or prolonged delivery. If a physician pulls or tugs on the baby’s arm the wrong way during an episode of shoulder dystocia, it can cause brachial plexus palsy by damaging the nerves. The nerves may be pulled or stretched due to the physician’s malpractice.

There are multiple types of Erb’s palsy. Neuropraxia is a common type; it occurs if the nerves are stretched but not torn. Neuropraxia can cause a stinging or burning sensation that often lasts around three months. Rupture means the nerves have been stretched far enough to tear. A rupture requires surgery to stitch the nerves back together. Ruptures could lead to neuroma, a buildup of scar tissue that can put pressure on healthy nerves and cause further damage. Our lawyers have considerable experience with Erb’s palsy lawsuits in Philadelphia and are prepared to discuss your case in further detail.

Klumpke’s Palsy

Klumpke’s palsy is a condition where brachial plexus nerve damage results in paralysis of the affected arm. The infant may experience a loss of feeling and function in one arm due to damage to these nerves. The forearm, wrist and hand are commonly affected by Klumpke’s palsy. Symptoms include pain, numbness, poor reflexes, joint stiffness, muscle weakness, a clawed hand or fingers, and paralysis. Depending on the extent of the nerve damage, Klumpke’s palsy can result in mild, temporary symptoms or a permanent disability.


The most severe type of brachial plexus injury is avulsion, when the nerve roots in the infant’s shoulder are completely torn away from the spinal cord. While surgery can help repair torn nerves, it is not possible to reattach them to the spine. For this reason, avulsion often results in permanent paralysis, weakness or other symptoms in the infant’s affected arm. The infant may live with irreversible loss of muscle movement in one shoulder, arm or hand due to this severe nerve damage.

Impaired Bone Growth or Muscle Development

In some cases, a brachial plexus injury can result in impaired bone growth, joint dysfunction and discrepancies in arm length. Severe damage to the brachial plexus can result in muscle atrophy, or the thinning of muscle mass due to lack of muscle movement and disruption to the nerve supply.

Over time, the injured arm may grow and develop at a slower pace, leading to one arm that is smaller and weaker than the other. Growth discrepancies can affect the child’s overall quality of life and cause impaired balance or coordination, abnormal movement patterns that can increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the shoulder, and limited range of motion or dexterity.


In some cases, a child with a brachial plexus injury can develop scoliosis, or an abnormal curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can result in a visibly curved spine, the child leaning more heavily to one side, uneven shoulders, chronic pain, back problems and breathing problems. In some cases, severe scoliosis may require surgery to treat.

If your child is dealing with long-term complications from a brachial plexus injury that occurred during labor and delivery, contact a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer at Youman & Caputo for a free case consultation. Your child may be eligible for financial compensation.