Although the birthing process has been refined by nature, it is not as though things cannot go wrong. Unfortunately, babies are at risks for all kinds of injuries when they are born. One birth injury, known as Klumpke’s palsy is worth knowing about if you or someone you know is expecting.
What Is Klumpke’s Palsy?
This birth affliction is a brachial plexus injury that affects newborns by interfering with the network of nerves in this area by sending impulses from the baby’s spine down to their shoulder, arm and finally to the bottom of the spine.
Sometimes, symptoms associated with Klumpke’s Palsy simply disappear on their own without the need for surgery. If the nerve damage is more severe, various forms of treatment will be required.
There are four types of this injury, according to the National Institute of Neural Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). They are:
- Avulsion: the nerve is actually severed from the spine.
- Rupture: the nerve is torn, but it does not happen where it connects to the spine.
- Neuroma: the nerve heals, but is unable to send nervous signals to the person’s arm or hand muscles because resulting scar tissue is putting too much pressure on it.
- Neuropraxia: stretching that causes damage, though the nerve is not torn.
Fortunately, Klumpke’s Palsy is a rare disorder. The National Institute of Health’s Office of Rare Disease reports that there are fewer than 200,000 people with it in the entire United States.
What Causes Klumpke’s Palsy?
Brachial plexus injuries are caused by nerves in this area of the body being stretched, compressed or even torn. Children and adults who play compact sports are at risk of suffering this type of injury. Several types of accidents including falls can also leave people injured in this area. Any damage done to the C8 and T1 nerves can result in Klumpke’s Palsy.
One common way this happens in newborns is during a vaginal birth when the baby is having trouble coming out. Often the doctor intends to pull the baby out by their arm, but uses too much force when doing so, causing damage to their brachial plexus.
Treating Klumpke’s Palsy
In most cases, the severity of Klumpke’s Palsy is the deciding factor on how a doctor will treat the injury. Fortunately, the most common form of this injury is also the least severe: simple stretching of the neuropraxia or nerves. Most babies who suffer from this version will heal without surgery. According to the NINDS, many will actually be perfectly fine by the time they are four months old.
Aside from severity, there are three other major factors a doctor will have to look at when deciding on a treatment for Klumpke’s palsy. They are:
- What happened
- How much time passed between the injury and when it is being treated
- Any other conditions
The treatment options available to doctors include:
- Physical therapy
Using physical therapy Klumpke’s palsy can often speed up the healing process, which is why doctors often use it even when they can see the baby will be fine on their own. Physical therapy also prevents stiffness from setting into the joints.
Even if the baby is recovering on their own, a doctor may want to use surgery. The healing process could result in scar tissue which, as we mentioned earlier, can interfere with the performance of this area. Unless the scar tissue is physical removed, it may always be a problem.
Medication may become necessary as Klumpke’s palsy can be responsible for a persistent burning feeling or other type of pain. Topical treatments and prescription medications can help ease this symptom.
While Klumpke’s palsy is a rare injury, it is important you understand that it still happens. If it ends up hurting your baby or if you get the injury later in life, see a doctor ASAP. Treatments are available, but work best when prescribed early.