Shoulder dystocia is one the more serious injuries that can occur in child birth. It is an injury to an infant’s brachial plexus (series of nerves running from the neck down the arms). This injury can result in a complete paralysis of the infant’s arm. The injury is permanent, lifelong, and devastating.
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The injury usually occurs when one of the infant’s shoulders gets lodged behind a bony prominent in the mother’s pelvis while the child is being delivered through the birth canal. There are several well-known maneuvers that delivering physicians should utilize when they encounter a shoulder dystocia that will allow the child to be delivered without injury. Medical professionals are working on devices that may help to prevent this type of injury in the future.
If, on the other hand, the delivering surgeon dislodges the child by exerting excessive force by pulling the child’s head, injuries to the nerves that come from the cervical spinal cord and go down each arm can frequently occur.
It is widely felt that brachial plexus injuries caused by improperly managed shoulder dystocia are quite preventable. When they occur, it usually results in a medical malpractice claim being brought against the delivering physician, also usually an obstetrician/gynecologist.