Klumpke’s Palsy commonly refers to nerve injuries involving the nerves leading from cervical vertebrae #7 or #8 (C7-8) and thoracic vertebra #1 (T/1).
These nerves are part of the “brachial plexus.”
The brachial plexus refers to the constellation of five nerve groups which proceed from the spinal cord in the neck to the shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers.
The stretching or tearing of the nerves in the brachial plexus can cause the partial or total paralysis of the muscles in either the left or right shoulder, arm, or hand.
Klumpke’s Palsy involves nerve injuries which most typically affect the muscles of the forearm and hand.
Pediatric Klumpke’s Palsy injuries most typically occur during the delivery of the baby, when the physician, nurse midwife or nurse carelessly applies too much force to the baby’s head and neck during the process of delivery. Such pulling and twisting of the baby’s head and neck will stretch and sometimes tear the nerves in the brachial plexus, resulting in Klumpke’s Palsy.
An unsafe and careless medical practitioner may pull or twist the baby’s head and neck if the baby’s shoulder becomes “stuck” behind the mother’s pubic bone in the birth canal. This condition is typically known as a “shoulder dystocia.”
Although the medical community has developed maneuvers that will permit a baby to be safely delivered even if a shoulder dystocia occurs, many unsafe and careless practitioners do not understand or fail to properly apply these maneuvers, thereby directly causing a Klumpke’s Palsy injury.
Klumpke’s Palsy often results from the rupture or tearing of the nerve roots, sometimes called an avulsion. Klumpke’s Palsy injuries do not typically resolve, even with interventions such as physical therapy and stretching and range of motion exercises. Often, the definitive treatment for a Klumpke’s Palsy injury is surgery, which may include nerve reconstruction surgery or muscle-tendon replacement surgery.
A permanent Klumpke’s Palsy will leave the child with a deformed and paralyzed arm. Permanent Klumpke’s Palsy injuries are characteristically associated with lack of sensation and weakness and/or paralysis in the forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. Children with Klumpke’s Palsy often are unable to manipulate the fingers on the affected hand, which remains in a claw. In some instances, Klumpke’s palsy will also be associated with a Horner’s sign, which includes drooping of the eyelid and dilation of the pupil of one eye.
A permanent Klumpke’s Palsy injury can affect a child’s self-esteem, and severely limit his or her ability to perform daily tasks such as getting dressed, bathing, and tying shoes. Moreover, when the child becomes an adult, Klumpke’s Palsy can restrict employment opportunities, especially in occupations requiring bimanual skills or the use of two strong, functioning arms.
The Law Firm of Dugan, Babij, Tolley & Kohler, LLC has extensive experience in representing families whose loved ones have been injured as a result of medical malpractice resulting in Klumpke’s Palsy.