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Brachial Plexus Injuries

The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerves running throughout the body’s spine, shoulders, arms, and hands. The network of nerves is functional in the sense that they control a person’s ability to use their wrists, arms, and hands for everything from typing, catching, or throwing objects, to gripping items. The nerves are also sensational, as they extend into the skin – alerting a body about temperature, contact, etc. When these nerves are inappropriately stretched, compressed, or torn away from the spinal cord, a patient may suffer permanent weakness or disability.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most individuals spontaneously recover with a 90%-100% return of function. However, caution is still advised as the site and type of a brachial plexus injury determines the extent of the injury, degree of treatment, and prognosis prediction.

Iowa Brachial Plexus Injuries

If you or a loved one suffered brachia plexus injuries in Iowa, contact an experienced injury attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. When a catastrophic injury occurs due to the carelessness or negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Our lawyers can evaluate and file your claim on your behalf.

Put your case in good hands and call McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. at (515) 279-9700 today. McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. has offices in West Des Moines, but we practice throughout the greater Polk County and Dallas County, Iowa area including De Soto, West Des Moines, Johnston, Perry, and Altoona.

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The Extent of Brachial Injuries

Brachial injuries can occur in both adults as well as children and infants. Brachial injuries usually occur when the body’s shoulder is forced or held down in a position when the neck extends up and away at the same time. This type of brachial injury is referred to as “Erb’s Palsy,” and is considered a severe tear of the brachial plexus nerve. In adults and children, this can happen in instances like motor vehicle accidents or contact sports.

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Symptoms of Brachial Injuries

Hallmark symptoms of brachial injuries include muscle weakness or paralysis in the affected arm or hand, numbness, limp arm, decreased movement or range of motion, stinging or severe pain, and sensation issues along the upper extremity.

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Brachial Injuries As A Result Of Medical Malpractice

Brachial injuries can also be the result of medical malpractice. For instance, chemotherapy radiation can be administered in a negligent manner which in turn causes tumor growth on the brachial plexus, resulting in pressure and damage along the brachial nerves. To bring a medical malpractice claim for radiation-induced brachial injuries in Iowa, a claimant would have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that a physician failed to exercise the required degree of skill, care, and learning which would have been exercised by physicians in similar circumstances, and that this failed duty caused the patient’s injuries and damages.

Medical malpractice claims for birth-induced brachial injuries are more common. Boston Children’s Hospital reports that brachial plexus injuries occur in about one to three of every 1,000 births. Birth-induced Brachial Injuries can take place for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Failure to perform a cesarean section when necessary
  • Vacuum or forceps-assisted delivery
  • Twin or multiple pregnancies
  • Breeched birth
  • Large gestational size
  • Improper delivery techniques, including excessive force during delivery
  • Failure to properly estimate a baby’s correct height and weight before and during delivery

In these instances, medical malpractice claims can be brought to recover damages due to the medical provider’s negligence during birth. The severity and prognosis of brachial injuries are usually classified according to the type of nerve injury and pattern of nerves involved.

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Types Of Brachial Injuries

Stretch Injuries (Neurapraxia)

Neurapraxia injuries are the most common type of brachial injuries and occur where the brachial nerve has been stretched, but not torn. Usually, this results from damage outside of the spinal cord and can recover on their own without further medical treatment. Still, the injury can be frightening to parents as the general recovery time spans the first three months of a baby’s life

Rupture Injuries

A rupture to the brachial nerves is serious and can take place where the nerves are torn but not at the point where the nerves attach to the spine. Depending on the degree of rupture, infants may require surgery to repair the rupture.


Avulsions are the most severe type of injury but are less common. In an avulsion, the nerve roots are torn from the spinal cord and occur at the injury site. Avulsions can be extremely painful and terrifying. They cannot be surgically repaired directly but instead require that the damaged tissue be surgically replaced through the time extensive and costly procedures of nerve transfers. Avulsions can further lead to damage to the diaphragm, making breathing difficult.

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Diagnosis And Treatment For Brachial Injuries

While many brachial injuries are minor and will heal on their own, the remaining injuries must be properly diagnosed and treated to ensure proper recovery. Brachial injuries are diagnosed by the treating physician or pediatrician upon a thorough review of the patient’s medical history and physical injury. With less serious brachial injuries for newborns, these can be monitored by the infant’s primary care pediatrician rather than treated through the neonatal staff at the hospital. During diagnosis, doctors must conduct the appropriate medical tests such as nerve conduction studies, or X-Rays. Pediatricians will need to exercise extra careful review of these images as they may not be as reliable for infants as they are for adults.

After proper diagnoses, MRI physicians and pediatricians should develop an appropriate treatment plan which may include referrals to pediatric orthopedists, brachial plexus specialists, ongoing exams to monitor progress, or in serious instances, operations such as nerve surgery, tendon and muscle transfers, or an open shoulder reduction.

If patients or parents notice unusual sensations, pain, and symptoms of a brachial injury, they should seek medical attention. In instances where the damage was overlooked or misdiagnosed, they may have a medical malpractice claim.

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Additional Resources

Johns Hopkins Medicine: Brachial Plexus Injuries – Visit the official website for the John Hopkins Medicine to view information on brachial plexus injuries. You can read causes of brachial plexus injuries and common symptoms.

Mayo Clinic: Brachial Plexus Injuries – Access the official website for the Mayo Clinic to read more about brachial plexus injuries. You can read about risk factors and complications.

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West Des Moines Brachial Plexus Injuries Lawyer | Polk County, Iowa

If you have suffered brachial plexus injuries in Polk County, Iowa, reach out to McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. The first step toward protecting your future is to learn more about your rights and the compensation you may be entitled to. Do not let another’s negligence cause you any more pain.

You can reach the office of McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. by calling (515) 279-9700. McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. is located in Des Moines, however we accept clients throughout the greater Dallas County and Polk County, Iowa area.

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