The severity of a shoulder dystocia injury can range from a dislocated shoulder to debilitating life-long injuries such as cerebral palsy.
Treatment for a shoulder dystocia birth injury will depend on the type of injury and how serious it is. Treatment may include supportive care, physical therapy, and even surgery. In the most serious cases, some treatments could be needed for the rest of the child’s life.
Injuries sustained from mismanaged shoulder dystocia & treatments available
Dislocated shoulder from a shoulder dystocia birth
A shoulder dislocation occurs when there is too much tension on the shoulder as it is being pulled. A dislocation happens when the humerus bone in the baby’s upper arm comes out of its socket. Although a dislocated shoulder is unlikely to cause permanent severe damage, there may be nerve injury from the dislocation. Even if there is no permanent injury, a shoulder dislocation can be painful and early treatment is important.
Treatment for a dislocated shoulder in an infant
To treat the dislocated shoulder, an x-ray will be needed to evaluate the damage and to ensure that there are no fractures present. The doctor will likely sedate the infant and manipulate the humerus to reposition it back into the socket. Depending on the injury, the infant may need a sling or cast to keep the arm in position.
If the dislocation is associated with nerve injury, the infant may need to undergo further surgery.
Shoulder dystocia and Erb’s palsy (brachial plexus injury)
During a delivery associated with shoulder dystocia, if too much tension is placed on the baby’s neck by excessive pulling, an injury to the brachial plexus known as Erb’s Palsy can occur. The brachial plexus comprises a group of nerves that sends signals from the baby’s spinal cord to their shoulders, arms, and fingers to control the motions in these areas. When this group of nerves is injured, it can lead to loss of sensation and to partial or total inability to move the arm, hand, or fingers.
Treatment for Erb’s Palsy
To treat Erb’s Palsy, physical therapy is usually provided within the first year of the baby’s life. In some circumstances, the nerve damage can be more serious and surgery may be required to treat the injury.
One of the most common surgeries performed for treating Erb’s Palsy is nerve transfer. This is where a healthy nerve is taken from another area in the infant’s body and connected to the damaged nerve. Alternatively, tendon transfer surgery may be required where a tendon from another area of the body is moved to the affected part of the infant’s arm or shoulder.
In more serious cases, when the nerves can become completely torn away from the spinal cord, there is a small but real risk that treatment will not effectively correct the complications of Erb’s Palsy and the infant may suffer a life-long, debilitating injury such as paralysis.
Cerebral palsy from shoulder dystocia
A delivery associated with shoulder dystocia can lead to more severe complications if the dystocia affects the ability of the baby to receive oxygen from the mother. Prolonged lack of oxygen to the baby can lead to permanent injury to the baby’s brain. This type of brain injury is known as cerebral palsy. If the unborn baby is showing signs of distress from lack of oxygen, it is paramount that the doctors and nurses act quickly to expedite the delivery of the baby to avoid the complication of cerebral palsy.
Treatment for Cerebral Palsy
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but treatments are available to help the child live as happily and independently as possible.
Treatments for cerebral palsy will depend on the severity of the symptoms and how the infant is affected. Because the effects of cerebral palsy vary from person to person there is no one treatment plan to suit all. Treatment for cerebral palsy will differ depending on the individual’s needs. It’s important for medical professionals and parents to work together to find the best individualized treatment plan. Treatments for cerebral palsy commonly include, but are not limited to:
- • Physical therapy
- • Surgery
- • Medication
- • Assistive Devices & Mobility aids
- • Orthotic devices
Funding a better quality of life through compensation
At D’amore Law, we understand that birth injury is both emotionally and financially devastating for a family. Some birth injuries require life-long care to help provide a child with the best quality of life possible, but this comes at a cost. Filing a birth injury lawsuit will not only provide you and your family with compensation for your child’s past and ongoing suffering, but it will also help you with the ongoing medical expenses you will experience due to any healthcare provider’s negligence.
If your child has suffered an injury at birth, contact us for a no-cost, no-pressure consultation.
Learn more about shoulder dystocia in our Comprehensive Guide to Birth Injuries.