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Birth Injury Glossary

The following is a list of common terms and phrases used when discussing birth injuries. If you can’t find a term you’d like us to define or have questions on birth injuries, contact one of our nurses. We’re here to answer your questions.

Avulsion –The least common and most severe type of Erb’s Palsy injury in which the nerve is torn from the spine.

Birth asphyxia –A general term used to describe lack of oxygen to an infant before, during or immediately following childbirth.

Brachial Plexus – A network of nerves in the neck that supply feeling and control to the shoulder and arms. This may be stretched or torn during childbirth, resulting in a loss of movement and feeling in the arm, hand and fingers. This condition is called Erb’s Palsy or brachial plexus palsy.

Breech presentation – Breech presentation is ANY presentation other than head first (vertex) – could be a foot, both feet, buttocks, knees, etc. Babies in breech presentation may be more likely to have cerebral palsy.

Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy is the outward manifestations of a particular type of birth injury in a child who suffered an interruption in oxygenation to the brain in utero, during delivery, or in the minutes and hours after delivery. It is non-progressive and affects the development of fine and gross motor skills. It also affects cognitive development/learning ability.

Erb’s Palsy – A condition in which a stretch injury to a network of nerves in the neck, known as the brachial plexus, results in a loss of movement and feeling in the arm, hand and fingers. Most cases of Erb’s Palsy are the result of improper delivery methods during labor and delivery.

Fetal distress – Signs appearing during pregnancy, labor or childbirth that indicates the fetus is not well and may have suffered injury. Signs of fetal distress include decreased movement, meconium in the amniotic fluid, and decreased fetal heart rate.

Forceps – Smooth, spoon-like metal instruments that are applied to the sides of a baby’s head to help guide it out of the birth canal during delivery. Forceps are used to facilitate a vaginal delivery when the baby is not making a steady progression down the birth canal.

Hypoxic ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) – Damage to brain cells from a lack of oxygen.

Hypertonia – Increased muscle tone in a newborn infant, causing it to appear stiff or rigid. Hypertonia is often an early sign of cerebral palsy, a serious birth injury.

Hypotonia – Decreased muscle tone in a newborn, resulting in a “floppy” or relaxed appearance. This is often an early indication of cerebral palsy.

Medical malpractice – A negligent act or omission by a professional health care provider which causes injury to a patient.

Seizure –A physical convulsion or combination of several physical symptoms resulting from uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. Seizures may affect some individuals with cerebral palsy and other types of brain-related birth injuries.

Shoulder dystocia – A condition in which normal vaginal delivery is hindered due to the baby’s shoulder being wedged behind the mother’s pubic bone. Shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 0.5 to 1.0 percent of all deliveries, or about 20,000 births each year. The tactics used to get the infant out of this position can lead to serious birth injuries or even fetal death.

Vacuum extraction – A technique used to assist with the completion of a vaginal delivery. A plastic cup is placed on the baby’s head and attached to a specialized vacuum. The force of suction on the head combined with the mother’s pushing activity helps the infant to move down the birth canal.

If you believe your child has a birth injury that may have been caused by negligent medical care, one of our birth injury lawyers be able to help. We have over 30 years of experience representing families like yours in birth injury cases resulting from substandard care. Our team of registered nurses will listen to your concerns and help get your questions answered.