Klumpke's palsy refers to a certain type of paralysis, and is almost always the result of an injury sustained during birth. While some Klumpke's palsy injuries are unavoidable, the majority of them occur as a result of doctor negligence.
What is Klumpke's palsy?
There are two main categories of brachial plexus injuries: Erb's palsy and Klumpke's palsy. The brachial plexus is a collection of nerves located in the back of the neck, shoulders, and upper arms. While an Erb's palsy injury affects the upper arm, a Klumpke's palsy injury only affects the lower arm and the hand.
Degrees of a Klumkpe's Palsy Injury
There are several types of nerve damage to the brachial plexus that may affect the severity of injury. When avulsion occurs, which is the most extensive type of brachial plexus nerve injury—resulting in the nerve actually being torn from the spine—complete paralysis will result. If the nerves are just slightly damaged, on the other hand, then temporary loss of function, partial paralysis, or weakness may occur instead.
It is important to know that some Klumpke's palsy injuries will heal on their own. Others will heal with physical therapy and exercises. Some Klumpke's palsy injuries, though, will cause a permanent loss of function to the child.
Causes of Klumpke's Palsy
Klumpke's palsy happens as a result of trauma to the brachial plexus during birth. Sometimes, this trauma can happen because the baby becomes stuck behind the mother's pelvic bones, resulting in shoulder dystocia.
Other times, a brachial plexus injury occurs because of excessive force applied to the shoulder in an attempt to free the baby from the birthing canal. The use of forceps or a vacuum extractor increases the risk a brachial plexus injury will occur, as does a doctor tugging on the baby's head, shoulder, or arms.
Is Klumpke's palsy preventable?
Klumpke's palsy is almost always preventable. Risk factors that lead to a complicated birth—and therefore shoulder dystocia and the necessity of force to remove the baby—are usually foreseeable. These factors include a large birth weight and an unsafe birthing position, such as the baby being born breech.
If a baby is too large for a safe vaginal birth, a cesarean section may be recommended. If a baby is in an unsafe birthing position, medical intervention may be necessary to rotate the baby prior to delivery.
Klumpke's Palsy and Negligence During Childbirth
Klumpke's palsy is often regarded as an injury caused by medical negligence during childbirth because it is avoidable and often caused by one of the following reasons.
- The doctor's use of excessive force
- Doctor used a vacuum extractor
- The way a doctor used forceps
Medical negligence means that the doctor didn't exercise the proper standard of care during the birth of the child, leading to the child's harm. For example, using excessive force or failing to perform an emergency cesarean section can both be examples of medical negligence. It is medical malpractice as long as the court agrees that the average medical professional in the same situation would have acted differently. Doing something other than that that is accepted by the medical community at large is a breach of the medical standard of care.
When negligence during childbirth leads to Klumpke's palsy, the parents of the child can file a medical malpractice claim on the child's behalf. The parents of the afflicted child must file within two years, and can result in compensation for all damages suffered, economically, physically, and emotionally.
Meet with a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
Klumpke's palsy can cause permanent paralysis to your child's forearm and hand. To ensure that your family recovers the damages you deserve, call the attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC today at 215-642-2335. You can also fill out our contact form for quick answers to your questions about Klumpke's palsy.