In 1900, more than 100 of every 1,000 children in the United States died before they turned one year old. Today, for every 1,000 babies that are born, fewer than six die during their first year, according to the CDC. Life has improved in many ways in the last century, but while children are living longer, that doesn’t mean parents can rest easy.
Most parents will say that when their children are sick or hurt, they would take the pain for themselves. So for those unfortunate enough to find that their children have a birth injury, the news is devastating. A birth injury can be the result of many things, ranging from the mother’s actions during pregnancy to genetics to negligence of the medical staff during birth.
Suspect a Birth Injury?
Khalidi Law Firm, PLLC has more than two decades’ experience litigating birth injuries caused by providers and hospitals. Located in Tucson’s Barrio Historico, the firm is well versed in Arizona law and has successfully pursued justice for those whose child was the victim of a birth injury.
If you believe your child suffered a birth injury due to a medical provider’s negligence, contact our medical malpractice attorneys as soon as possible for a free consultation to evaluate the merits of your claim.
We receive no fees and you pay no out-of-pocket expenses unless we successfully resolve your claim, but it is important to contact a legal representative quickly to make sure your claim, should you have one, is filed within the statute of limitations under Arizona law.
Types of Birth Injuries
There are two basic types of birth injuries – injuries to the brain and to the body. According to The Centers for Disease Control, Merck Manual and National Institutes for Health, the most common are:
- Brachial Plexus Injuries (BPI)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Intracranial Hemorrhage/Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
- Perinatal Asphyxia
- Bone Fractures
- Facial Paralysis
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Brachial Plexus Injuries (BPI)
Brachial Plexus injuries occur when the bundle of nerves that originate from the upper spine and go through the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand are damaged. Damage ranges from mild and temporary to severe and permanent. There are two types: The mildest is neuropraxia, or a stretching of the nerve; more severe is neuroma, in which the nerve is torn and does not heal properly. The most common BPIs are:
- Neuropraxia – The most common and least severe. Includes minor strains, and generally heals on its own.
- Erb’s Palsy (Rupture) – Erb’s Palsy occurs when the nerve itself is injured and may cause full or partial paralysis in the affected arm; loss of sensory and/or motor function in the affected arm; decreased grip and arm numbness in the affected arm. The affected arm may be bent toward the body or hang limp.
- Klumpke’s Palsy – This affects the lower part of the brachial plexus nerves, resulting in numbness, loss of feeling, miosis, and a claw-like appearance in the hand of the affected arm. Klumpke’s palsy affects the hand, wrist, and arm of the affected area and is typically caused by shoulder dystocia.
- Neuroma — This occurs when excessive scar tissue grows around the original BPI, creating pressure and muffling signals through the nerves. It affects the hand, wrist and arm.
- No Moro Reflex on the affected side
- Limited or no movement on the affected side
- Claw-like hand appearance
- Abnormal muscle contractions, which may become permanent, even after treatment options
Difficult deliveries can cause broken bones in newborns, especially the collar bone. Clavicle fractures are the most common injury during child birth. Symptoms include:
- Crying when the affected area is touched or moved
- Little or no movement in the affected area, generally the arm on the side of the fracture
- The affected side of the shoulder may appear to droop and be lower than the unaffected side
- A lump may appear in the affected area, usually a few weeks after the injury.
- Pain and swelling in the affected area
- Redness and bruising around the affected area
- Inability to move the limb in the fractured area
- Deformity in the affected area, which is typically easily recognizable.
Perinatal asphyxia occurs when the newborn does not receive sufficient amounts of oxygen, usually when there is an oxygen deficiency in the blood or there is insufficient blood flow to the fetus or newborn. Causes of perinatal asphyxia include:
- Too little oxygen in the mother’s blood before or during birth
- Problems with the placenta separating from the uterus too soon
- Very long or difficult delivery
- Problems with the umbilical cord during delivery
- A serious infection in the mother or baby
- High or low blood pressure in the mother
- Baby’s airway is not formed properly
- Baby’s airway is blocked
- The baby’s blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen (anemia).
- Baby is not breathing or breathing is very weak
- Skin color is bluish or pale
- Heart rate is low
- Muscle tone is poor or reflexes are weak
- Too much acid is in the blood (acidosis)
- The amniotic fluid is stained with meconium (first stool)
- The baby is experiencing seizures.
Intracranial Hemorrhage/Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
Bleeding in the skull, commonly under the two innermost layers of the brain covering. Symptoms include:
- Apnea (breathing pauses)
- Pale or blue coloring
- Abnormal eye movement
- Shrill cry
- Decreased muscle tone
- Decreased reflexes
- Excessive sleep
- Weak sucking reflex
- Fallen blood count.
The facial nerve is damaged either temporarily or permanently. Certain presenting symptoms of this injury involve lack of control over facial muscles, which is usually noticeable when the infant cries. Causes may include:
- Large baby size (may be seen if the mother has diabetes)
- Long pregnancy or labor
- Use of epidural anesthesia
- Use of a medicine to cause labor and stronger contractions.
Symptoms may include:
- Eyelid may not close on affected side
- Lower face (below eyes) appears uneven during crying
- Mouth does not move down the same way on both sides while crying
- No movement (paralysis) on the affected side of the face (from the forehead to the chin in severe cases).
Spinal Cord Injuries
These are among the most severe birth injuries and may be caused by traumatic nerve/cord damage, meningeal tear or the use of forceps. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of touch sensations
- Inability to move
- Bowel and bladder control problems (which is difficult to determine with infants)
- Abnormal reflexes
- Stinging pains, caused by nerve damage around the spinal cord
- Difficulties with breathing
A severe brain injury characterized by muscle spasms, weak muscles, and lack of development with motor skills are hallmarks of cerebral palsy. There is no cure. Some known causes include:
- Infections during pregnancy
- Insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus
- Asphyxia during labor and delivery
- Blood diseases
- Severe jaundice
- Other birth defects
- Acquired cerebral palsy.
Diagnosis of cerebral palsy can often include a 12-step process:
- Parental Observation
- Clinical Observations
- Motor Skill Development Analysis
- Medical History Review
- Documenting Associative Conditions, Co-Mitigating Factors, and Ruling-Out Other Conditions
- Obtaining Test Results
- Obtaining a Second Opinion
- Determining Cause
- Care Team Assembly
- Care Plan Creation
- Embracing a Life with Cerebral Palsy.
Treatment for Birth Injuries
Treatment for birth injuries can be as varied as the injuries themselves. If the injury is a temporary one, such as a broken bone, the treatment may be simple and will hopefully conclude the problem quickly. If the problem is more severe, treatment may be extremely expensive and need to continue throughout the child’s lifetime. According to the Birth Injury Guide, there are three basic types of treatment for birth injuries:
- Severe cases of brachial plexus injuries, when other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, didn’t work
- Brain hemorrhaging
- A fractured skull.
- Pain management and anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and corticosteroids
- Anti-spastic medication, such as baclofen, tazidine, and dantrolene
- Seizure medication, such as gabapentin and topiramate
- Anticholinergic medication, including trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride and benzotropine mesylate
- Botox, to weaken injured muscles in an attempt to allow the injured muscles to catch up to the other muscles
- Stool softeners.
- Strength and balance
- Reducing physical limitations
- Increasing fitness, gait, and posture.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
This therapy is used to treat children who experienced oxygen deprivation during childbirth. Infants are placed in a chamber containing 100 percent oxygen, and the pressure is gradually turned up to three times normal air pressure. While the treatment is in need of much more clinical research, it is theorized that the treatment is helpful with symptoms of Cerebral Palsy and autism.
Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia
This treatment is used to lower an infant’s body temperature in order to stall or eradicate symptoms of injuries and diseases. The infant is placed into a cooling blanket and the temperature is slowly reduced. Research suggests the treatment is effective in significantly reducing the chances of severe brain injury by 25 percent.
- Developing fine motor skills
- Learning basic skills tasks such as brushing teeth and hair
- Developing positive behavior
- Reducing outbursts and impulsiveness
- Improving focus skills and social skills
- Developing and improving hand-eye coordination
- Assisting with learning disabilities
Tucson, AZ Birth Injury Attorneys
The birth injury lawyers of Khalidi Law Firm can help your family recover compensation for the past medical expenses you have had in the treatment of your child’s birth injury. We also have the experience and resources to estimate future medical expenses and the cost of goods and services your child may require as he or she ages. In addition, you may be eligible to obtain non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and emotional distress.
If your child has been the victim of a birth injury, contact Khalidi Law Firm, PLLC today. Our team of experienced and compassionate lawyers are here to help. Set up a free consultation to make sure your rights are protected by professionals.