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Birth Injury: Causes of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Posted on July 16th, 2015

Brachial plexus injuries are a type of birth injury where the brachial plexus, a network of nerves in the spine, neck, and arms, is damaged during delivery. Though these injuries are rare (occurring in 2-5 of every 1000 births), they can have potentially lifelong consequences for the baby. This injury can result in partial or full paralysis of one or both arms. Learn more about why a brachial plexus injury may occur, in our blog.


This injury can result in partial or full paralysis of one or both arms.

Birth Injury: Causes of Brachial Plexus Injuries

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that increase the chances of a brachial plexus injury during birth. These include:

  • The infant is larger than normal.
  • Maternal obesity
  • Gestational diabetes
  • The infant is born during a breech delivery, meaning feet first as opposed to head first.
  • Trauma to the mother or infant before delivery

Prolonged Contractions During Labor and Delivery

A stressful labor and delivery process can put excess pressure on the head and shoulders of the infant. This can lead to a number of potential conditions, one of which is a brachial plexus injury.

Birth-Assisting Tools Used Improperly

During a difficult labor and delivery, the doctor may use birth-assisting tools to attempt to move the baby through the birth canal. These include tools such as forceps and vacuum-extraction devices. If the doctor uses these tools incorrectly, a brachial plexus injury could result.

Excessive Force

The doctor may use excessive force with his or her hands during the delivery. Often, this occurs when there is concern that the conditions of the delivery could potentially lead to oxygen deprivation for the baby, such as in a breech delivery. However, this can also happen during normal head-first deliveries.

Are brachial plexus injuries treatable?

Yes, these injuries are treatable. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may even be able to completely restore function to the injured arm or arms. However, there is also the potential for permanent damage to the arms if the injury is severe enough.

If you believe you may have been a victim of medical malpractice in Maryland, contact The Snyder Litigation team’s medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland for a free consultation. Our team of medical malpractice attorneys in Baltimore takes only the best of the best cases with the intent of bringing them to the finish line.  We have more than 50 years of combined experience and have obtained more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Please follow us on our blog, as well as on our FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn pages.