Birth injuries can occur due to complications during labor and delivery. For example, sometimes the doctor has to apply traction to a baby’s head for extrication. When this happens, it can pull on the baby’s neck and shoulders and cause nerve damage affecting the upper extremities.
The neurological system consists of the central nervous system, e.g., the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves, which connect to the spinal cord and relay nerve impulses to various parts of the body. Located between the neck and shoulders, the brachial plexus is a peripheral nerve network that organizes signals going to the upper extremities and torso. Brachial plexus injuries can result from stretching or tearing these nerves. According to the Social Security Administration, brachial plexus injuries are more likely to occur during childbirth than in later life, and there are two main types.
The brachial plexus divides into upper and lower sections. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Klumpke’s palsy is an injury that affects the lower portion. Children with Klumpke’s palsy may be unable to move their fingers, hand or wrist. They may also experience loss of sensation.
Erb’s palsy results from an injury to the nerves of the upper brachial plexus. This type of injury affects the movement and sensation of the elbow or shoulder. However, it does not affect the hand, which can move as normal.
Of the two types of brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy is more common. Klumpke’s palsy occurs less often and is more difficult to treat. This means that the prognosis for Klumpke’s palsy may be worse than for Erb’s palsy, but it depends partly on the extent of the individual injury.