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4 Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries During Birth

By: Anapol Weiss

A newborn can suffer nerve damage when his or her shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during birth. If the delivering physician fails to recognize and respond to this condition, called shoulder dystocia, the infant can sustain nerve injuries ranging from mild to permanent. Call a birth injury attorney at Anapol Weiss if you believe your child suffered during delivery as a result of neglect from doctors and medical staff.

The brachial plexus nerves are located near the neck and are connected to all the nerves of the arm. Below are four general types of brachial plexus nerve injuries that can occur alone or simultaneously when a baby is born, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Treatment and recovery depend on the severity of the damage.


A newborn can sustain a stretch injury that shocks the nerve but does not tear it. This type of injury typically heals on its own within a few months.


Scar tissue from a stretch injury that damages some nerve fibers may press on the remaining healthy nerve. Some recovery usually occurs.


A nerve will not heal on its own when it is stretched so badly it tears. Surgery involving a donor nerve graft from another child’s nerve may be able to repair a rupture.


A nerve that has been torn from the spinal cord cannot be repaired. Surgery using a donor’s nerve may restore some function in the arm.

Erb’s palsy refers to damage sustained to the upper nerves during birth; a child with Erb’s palsy may not be able to move the affected shoulder but may be able to move his or her fingers. Damage to both the upper and lower brachial plexus nerves usually results in more severe disabilities.

One or two out of every 1,000 babies have brachial plexus palsy, but the condition is preventable. Contact our firm for assistance if your child was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy or sustained long-term brachial plexus damage during birth. We can help.