Klumpke’s palsy (or Klumpke’s paralysis) is a condition that affects an individual’s hand mobility and hand and arm strength. This condition may be the result of trauma or accident in which a person’s arm or shoulder are stretched by an extreme pulling action, which can damage certain cervical and thoracic nerve pathways.
Physicians who use excessive force and pull a baby’s head to dislodge the baby’s shoulder from the mother’s birth canal, for example, may stretch and damage the baby’s nerve pathways, and one of the more common causes of Klumpke’s palsy is this type of traumatic childbirth.
Risk Factors and Treatment for Klumpke’s Palsy
Klumpke’s palsy is a relatively rare condition, but certain risk factors among pregnant women may increase the likelihood of the occurrence of the condition. Ignoring those risk factors may be a basis for medical malpractice against the physician.
If, for example, a woman is diagnosed with maternal diabetes or the unborn baby is expected to have a large birth weight, or if the woman has a lengthy labor or the physician uses forceps or other extraction tools to assist in the delivery, there is a greater risk that the child will suffer an injury that results in Klumpke’s palsy. In these circumstances, if the physician failed to follow accepted medical standards to address the higher risks and the baby is injured as a result of that failure, the physician may be liable for medical malpractice.
Klumpke’s palsy may be treated, and the adverse effects of this condition can be remedied with early and effective treatment. Failure to diagnose and treat the condition in a newborn baby, however, can result in a lifelong disability. Treatments may include physical therapy for the first several months of the baby’s life or, in more extreme cases, surgery to remove scar tissue or to graft new nerve pathways.
In all cases, applicable medical standards may impose an obligation on a physician to look for and recognize signs of Klumpke’s palsy in a newborn baby and to recommend an appropriate treatment is the condition is observed. One of the more common symptoms of the condition, for example, is a “claw hand” combined with reduced arm movement and mobility. The physician’s failure to follow diagnostic standards and to recognize symptoms can lead to a further basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Malpractice Standards and Klumpke’s Palsy
The basic standards for a medical malpractice lawsuit for the medical error that resulted in Klumpke’s palsy are the same as for general medical malpractice cases. Specifically:
- a physician-patient relationship must exist
- the physician failed to follow the reasonable and customary standards that apply to his or her field
- the patient suffered an injury as a result of the physician’s failure to follows those standards and
- the patient is damaged as a result of that injury regarding incurring extra medical and other costs, as well as experiencing pain and suffering
A medical malpractice lawsuit can be based on both a Klumpke’s palsy injury that resulted from a traumatic childbirth and the physician’s failure to diagnose and properly treat the condition.
In both cases, the specific facts of the situation will establish whether the physician adhered to acceptable standards. A mother who suspects that her newborn child is displaying Klumpke’s palsy symptoms should keep careful and accurate records of the baby’s daily routine and activities, and should review and record her pregnancy and childbirth experience to discern any factors that may have raised the risk of a traumatic deliver that resulted in a Klumpke’s palsy condition.
If the mother has any suspicions that a physician’s error caused a Klumpke’s palsy condition, she should consult with an attorney as soon as is possible. The standards and statutes that apply to medical malpractice lawsuits vary from state to state and a person’s rights, and remedies can be defeated, for example, if a lawsuit is not filed within a certain amount of time after the occurrence of the medical error. Hospitals maintain thorough charts and records for all events that take place during childbirth.
Even with accurate charts and records, however, an attorney will want to review those records to develop an accurate picture of any traumatic events that may have occurred as soon as is possible after childbirth and before memories of those events can fade.
By one estimate, Klumpke’s palsy affects fewer than one in three thousand newborn infants.
Those babies who do suffer from Klumpke’s palsy will require extra medical treatment that can be costly. If a medical error caused the condition, a malpractice lawsuit might be warranted to procure the necessary compensation to pay for that treatment. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will provide the best counsel on how to get that compensation.
For a clinical overview on Klumpke’s palsy, see: