Case studies

Brachial plexus injuries

Brachial plexus injuries can arise during birth, where excessive force or incorrect manoeuvres are applied to try to deliver a baby whose shoulder may be obstructed, preventing delivery.

The effects can be wide-ranging and in many cases disabling, affecting the injured person's use of one or both arms and can give rise to many subsequent surgical attempts to improve motor function. This, in turn, affects the person's ability to perform day-to-day tasks and impacts on their future employment. Awards or settlement values reflect the life-long implications for the injured person and commonly run to several hundreds of thousands of pounds depending on the extent of the damage caused and the long-term implications, both in terms of medical prognosis and the financial costs particularly of future care and lost earnings.

In some cases, the risk of a difficult labour and potential for brachial plexus injury should be identified during the pregnancy and appropriate arrangements made to ensure that protocols to avoid brachial plexus injury are adopted. In other cases, the risk only materialises in the course of the labour, but nevertheless, there are clearly established principles that should be followed to avoid excessive force on the baby's head and to manoeuvre the baby in utero during labour.

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