Brachial Plexus Injury:
The Brachial Plexus, first of all, is the network of nerves responsible for sending signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. A a result, a Brachial Plexus injury can occur when these nerves are compressed and or stretched. In extreme cases they can be torn away from the spinal cord.
When this injury occurs at birth it is known as Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy or Erb’s Palsy. This injury causes arm weakness and loss of motion. 1/2 out of every 1000 babies will be diagnosed with this condition. The main cause of Erb’s Palsy is an infant’s neck being stretched to one side during delivery.
Erb’s Palsy will affect the upper limbs and more usually the shoulder. If it is a case that both upper and lower limbs have been affected then this is much more severe than Erb’s Palsy. This severe injury is called “Global” or “Total” Brachial Plexus birth injury. There are four types of nerve injuries that can occur during labour. It is worth noting that all four can occur in the same child at the same time.
These types of nerve injuries, in order of severity are:
Brachial Plexus injuries in new born babies will generally occur due to a difficult labour i.e. delivery of a particularly large baby, the baby is breech or the labour take a particularly long time. It can also be caused where the doctor or midwife needs to deliver the baby quickly and uses force to remove the baby.