Klumpke’s Palsy

Also known as Klumpke’s paralysis, Klumpke’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy that affects the muscles of the forearm and hand. This birth injury affects the first thoracic nerve and the eighth cervical nerve leading to lifelong neurological and physical impairment. Klumpke’s Palsy affects one to four newborns per 1,000 live births, according to estimates.

What Causes Klumpke’s Palsy?

Klumpke’s Palsy occurs when a vaginal delivery becomes too difficult. Meaning, the baby is too big for the mother. Sometimes, doctors will resort to unsafe methods of extraction that could result in injuries to the brachial plexus. Shoulder dystocia is a major cause of Klumpke’s palsy.
Neuropraxia, a nerve injury in which the brachial plexus nerves stretch or tear, can cause Klumpke’s Palsy. In that case, the nerve damage will not be pronounced and no ruptures are experienced. However, tears that occur at the spinal level are called avulsion, which also causes Klumpke’s Palsy.

What Are the Symptoms of Klumpke’s Palsy?

Since Klumpke’s affects the nerves in the hands and arms, symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the injury.
The most common symptom is having a claw hand where the arm is flat and the fingers are tightened. Other symptoms include having stiff joints, muscle atrophy, losing the sensation in the arm and hand, paralysis, and droopy eyelids.
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How Is Klumpke’s Palsy Treated?

In some cases, the condition may be minimal, thus requiring up to ten days of gentle massaging and immobilization of the affected arm. The key factor in cases like this is to maintain passive motion until the nerve recovers.
However, the damage can sometimes be more pronounced, requiring more than massages and immobilization. When the nerve is torn, surgeries are the best solution. These include nerve grafts and neuroma excision. Microsurgical nerve grafting helps when the baby is between three and nine months of age and seem to lack antigravity biceps function. Also, the injury would be postganglionic with no damage to the nerve root.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Klumpke’s Palsy?

Typically, if the condition is not severe, newborns will be able to recover from it within six months; but, while keeping at least 10 percent of the symptoms. If the condition is more serious, consequences can last as long as a lifetime. These consist of impairments to the hand, arms, and fingers. Klumpke’s palsy is frequently linked to preganglionic injury and Horner’s Syndrome.
The severity of the injury, the time of its onset and the rate of its progress since birth can determine the prognosis. For torn nerves, surgery is the only solution, however, the corrective operation must be performed before it’s too late.

Is Klumpke’s Palsy Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Unfortunately, during many vaginal deliveries, some doctors fail to account for the possibility of certain complications. However, it is always their responsibility to correctly time the delivery, and keep the mother and her child in perfect health. Meaning, if a delivery involves a large baby and a tight birth canal, a C-section delivery may be the safest option. Thus, it’s crucial doctors foresee such complications and make the best decision to prevent possible damage to the baby.
Sometimes, during delivery, the baby’s shoulder might get stuck in the birth canal while his or her head is emerging. In that case, the doctor will have to use some force and twisting to correct the situation. But, problems arise when doctors use more force than necessary to deliver the baby, or if they fail to detect the position of the descending baby in a timely manner. Problems also arise from misusing delivery tools, such as forceps and vacuum extractors.

Free Consultations for Families Looking for Help

At Morgan & Morgan, we believe every baby and mother deserves a safe birthing experience. Our team of birth injury lawyers and medical professionals is ready to provide you with all the support you need if your delivery possibly involved negligence from your doctor, which resulted in Klumpke’s Palsy. We’ve handled numerous cases, like yours, and recovered millions of dollars that were used to support the cost of medical needs and care.
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