A fractured collarbone or clavicle is one of the most common birth injuries sustained by infants during delivery, according to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It is often the result of trauma or a difficult delivery. Usually, the first sign that this fracture has taken place is fussiness or crying that coincides with movement of the affected arm because of pain in the clavicle. The affected part of the shoulder may also appear to droop and be lower than the other shoulder. The more serious consequences of a broken clavicle have to do with the collection of nerves in the shoulder called the brachial plexus, and if those nerves were injured because of the fracture, it may result in more permanent injuries.
If your infant suffered a fractured collarbone during delivery, and you believe that the medical professionals who performed the delivery were negligent in some fashion, you should speak with a personal injury attorney. In Utah, Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law may be able to help you determine whether you are entitled to compensation.
There are certain risk factors that may increase the risk of a clavicle fracture during delivery. One is the size of the infant. If the infant is above average in size, then it has a greater chance of having its shoulders stuck in the birth canal during delivery. Another potential risk factor is if the mother has a narrow birth canal. Finally, the user of certain tools such as forceps or vacuum extraction to assist in delivery may also increase the risk of clavicle fractures.
Use of Forceps During Delivery
Forceps is an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs used to assist with vaginal delivery. The forceps are typically applied to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. Usually, doctors choose to apply forceps during a contraction while the mother pushes. Using forceps may be recommended during the second stage of labor if it isn’t professing or an immediate delivery is necessary for the baby’s safety. However, forceps delivery poses a risk of injury for both the mother and the baby. One of the possible injuries that forceps delivery may cause is a clavicle fracture.
Use of Vacuum Extraction During Delivery
Another form of assisted delivery that may contribute to a clavicle fracture is vacuum extraction. During this procedure, a flexible, rounded cup is applied to an infant’s head in the birth canal. The cup is connected to an electric suction pump or a small handheld pump that creates vacuum pressure to hold the cup to the infant’s head. The doctor then gently pulls on a handle attached to the cup while the mother pushes to assist the infant in moving out of the birth canal. Vacuum extraction poses several risks for the baby, including a higher risk of getting the baby’s shoulder stuck after the head has been delivered, thereby leading to a collarbone fracture.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Clavicle Fractures
Clavicle fractures are often difficult to diagnose because they can be asymptomatic. Diagnosis is often made when the parents note seeming paralysis or lack of active, spontaneous movement of the affected shoulder. Another symptom is the lack of a Moro reflex, which is a reflex in healthy infants that occurs when they are startled. They will throw out their arms to the side with palms facing up and thumbs flexed if startled. Commonly, diagnosis of the fracture will only happen after a callus mass is observed over the affected clavicle, which usually doesn’t form until seven to ten days after the fracture occurred.
Often, doctors do not prescribe extensive treatment of clavicle fractures because they are so common and largely asymptomatic, and infant fractures heal very quickly. Often, treatment is limited to minimizing the newborn’s pain and discomfort. The doctor may immobilize the affected arm and prescribe pain medication. However, the clavicle fracture may cause nerve damage that may have more persistent symptoms and long-term effects.
Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, is a seasoned attorney with years of experience in pursuing claims against medical professionals for birth injuries in Utah. If you believe medical professionals were negligent in providing you with care during your delivery, resulting in injuries to your infant, do not hesitate to contact us today for an initial consultation by calling (800) 532-0021 or by completing our online form. We will examine your case and advise you on a strategy for obtaining compensation.