What is the Difference Between Brachial Plexus and Clavicle Injuries?

There are many types of birth injury that can affect your baby’s bones, muscles, and nerves.  In this post titled “what is the difference between brachial plexus and clavicle injuries”, we want to focus on the differences between these two common birth injuries affecting the upper extremities.

Brachial Plexus vs Clavical Injuries

What are the Symptoms of Brachial Plexus and Clavicle Injuries?

When it comes to the area around the collarbone, shoulders, and arms,  birth injuries may present  some similar symptoms even if the cause and severity are vastly different.  If your baby is exhibiting signs of weakness, paralysis, swelling, or pain in the upper extremities, your doctor will need to consider whether it could be due to a brachial plexus injury or a clavicle injury.  Some of the symptoms of each type of injury include:

  • Brachial Plexus Injury – Abnormal muscle contractions and control, limited or absent movement on affected side, claw-like hand appearance, and abnormal reflexes.
  • Clavicle Injury – Sensitivity/crying when the area is touched, limited movement in the arm on the affected side, drooping in the shoulder area, swelling around the injury.

As with any type of injury, it is crucial that doctors evaluate the nature and severity of the injury, then administer proper treatment.

Differences Between Brachial Plexus and Clavicle Injuries

While it is true that both injuries affect the upper portion of the body, there are some distinct differences between brachial plexus and clavicle injuries.  Consider the following:

  • Brachial Plexus Injury – A brachial plexus injury occurs when there is an injury to the group of nerves that run between the arms, spine, and neck. Brachial plexus injuries can occur at any point along the nerve line, and vary in severity.
  • Clavicle Injury – A clavicle injury occurs generally when the clavicle bone (collarbone) is fractured during birth. Clavicle fractures can occur anywhere along the bone, but 85 percent of fractures occur in the midshaft (middle) portion of the bone.

Why Do Brachial Plexus and Clavicle Injuries Occur?

Birth injuries to the clavicle and shoulder area most often occur during birth.  Factors contributing to these injuries include large birth weight, stressful, complicated, or breech delivery.  And while these two injuries are very different and may occur for a number of reasons, there is one thing that remains similar between them.  This similarity is the fact that both injuries are often preventable so long as doctors are diligent in providing proper care during labor and delivery.

Doctors can help prevent brachial plexus and clavicle injuries by being diligent in monitoring mother and child, addressing complications, using delivery tools like forceps with care, and scheduling emergency cesarean section (c-section) operations when needed.  Failing to be diligent and provide adequate medical care could result in your baby being injured due to medical malpractice or negligence.

If you are concerned that your baby was injured due to doctor negligence, contact Birth Injury Guide today to learn more about your legal rights.

Differences in Treatment of Brachial Plexus and Clavicle Injuries

Not only are there differences in the injuries themselves, but there are also differences in how these injuries are treated.

  • Brachial Plexus Injury – Treatment of brachial plexus injuries is most often determined by the nature and severity of the injury. Minor injuries may heal on their own, or with a little support.  More serious injuries, however, may require medication, physical therapy, or even surgery to repair.  Success rates for current treatment options ranges from 50-90 percent chance of the child having full use of his or her affected arm(s).
  • Clavicle Injury – Treatment of a clavicle injury is often less invasive than brachial plexus injury treatment. Most clavicle injuries (including fractures) will heal on their own with little support needed beyond comfort care.  General treatment methods include ice, arm support, medication, and physical therapy if needed.  If, however, the fracture is severe, displaced, or compound (breaking the skin), more immediate, aggressive treatment is required.

These descriptions of common treatment for brachial plexus and clavicle injuries offers the basic treatment options used.  This list is not exhaustive, and treatment of your child’s injuries will vary depending on the exact nature and severity of the injury, as well as his or her overall health.

Getting Help after a Birth Injury

No matter what the cause, when your baby suffers a birth injury, your life may feel completely out of control.  Your first concern is, no doubt, the health and wellbeing of your child.  You also likely are concerned about how you will manage the financial expense of a birth injury.  You may find some help and support through local and state agencies, which may offer financial support, insurance, and other help.

If your baby suffered a brachial plexus or clavicle injury as a result of medical malpractice or negligence, then your best ally may be that of an attorney.  An attorney who specializes in medical malpractice and birth injuries can help you understand your situation and explore options to protect the legal rights of you and your family.

Contact Birth Injury Guide today to speak with one of our caring attorneys.  We have helped numerous clients just like you stand up for their rights and get compensation for their injuries and losses due to malpractice or negligence.  For a free review of your case, fill out our online form and we will respond to you promptly.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.