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Cerebral palsy is often misinterpreted as a muscle-related birth injury because in some cases, the infant has total loss of muscle control. However, cerebral palsy is a brain-related birth injury that affects the way the brain sends communication to the muscle groups.
Muscle-related injuries, however, are generally easy to diagnose as a clinical evaluation can pinpoint where the limited movement or paralysis is coming from. Some muscle-related injuries may be related to more blatant medical malpractice such as lacerations, bruises, or broken bones. This can also cause other physical birth injuries such as skull fractures or cephalohematoma, the bruising of the area between the brain and the outer layers of skin.
Common muscle-related and physical injuries include:
Brachial plexus happens when the upper extremity of the arm is injured, usually during delivery. Symptoms include weakness in the affected arm and the inability to use certain muscles in the affected arm. The shoulder and hands may also be affected. Electrical-type shocks and a burning sensation down the affected arm is also common.
Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus marked by the nerves of the upper arm being affected, usually after a birth injury. Infants with Erb’s palsy may experience the loss of feeling and weakness in the affected. In severe cases, infants may have total paralysis in the affected arm.
Klumpke’s palsy, another form of brachial plexus, is caused by damage to the lower nerves in the arm, affecting the arm, wrists, and fingers. Typically, an infant with Klumpke’s palsy with have total paralysis in the affected area, and the hand usually takes on a permanent, claw-like shape.
Shoulder dystocia is a complication of labor and delivery that occurs when an infant’s head and shoulders get trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. Although shoulder dystocia only happens in 1% of all pregnancies, the complications that arise with this type of injury can be severe. Along with the risk of maternal hemorrhaging and uterine rupture, the baby may experience difficulties when breathing, a collarbone fracture, cerebral palsy, a brachial plexus fracture, and in some instances, death.