What is Klumpke’s Palsy?

3 Min Read

Childbirth is usually a happy, if challenging, experience, but it is a tragic reality that some babies suffer injury during birth.

You may not have heard of some of these conditions unless your life has been directly affected by them; this guide aims to give introductory answers to what Klumpke’s palsy is.

If you are a parent whose child has suffered this type of birth injury, it will help to have an understanding of the condition, how it can be treated and whether it could have been avoided with different treatment.

What is Klumpke’s palsy?

Klumpke’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury – that is, damage to the bundle of nerves from the spinal cord down the shoulders and arms and ending at the fingers. A brachial plexus injury at birth is caused by shoulder dystocia, which is where one or more of the baby’s shoulders becomes caught in the birth canal during delivery.

Doctors must act quickly and carefully to ensure that the baby is delivered without damaging the delicate brachial nerves.

In severe cases, the nerve root may be completely torn from the spinal cord; the nerves may also rupture, or be damaged through stretching.

Symptoms of Klumpke’s palsy

The damage caused by Klumpke’s palsy can range from numbness or sensory loss in the lower arm – that is, anywhere from the elbow to the hand. In the most severe cases, a child with Klumpke’s palsy may lose all function in the hand, with the paralysis sometimes leaving the hand looking ‘claw-like’.

Unlike Erb’s palsy, which can also be caused by shoulder dystocia and affects the upper nerves in the brachial plexus, Klumpke’s palsy affects the nerves in the lower part of the plexus.

Treatment of Klumpke’s Palsy

The outlook for a child with Klumpke’s palsy depends on the severity of the injury and how appropriately the condition was treated.

More minor incidences of Klumpke’s palsy may heal completely on their own – the nerves may repair without further intervention. However, in other situations, surgery may be necessary. This can include instances where:

  • The nerve damage was severe, featuring rupture or tearing.
  • The nerves in the brachial plexus have healed but generated a lot of scar tissue while doing so. This scar tissue can interfere with the electrical signals that pass along the nerves, interrupting proper function.

Physiotherapy is usually recommended for children suffering from Klumpke’s palsy, gradually re-training the nerves and improving circulation across the affected area.

A combination of physiotherapy and, if necessary, surgery, can lead to good prospects of recovery, although healing time can be anything from a few months to several years.

Klumpke’s Palsy Negligence – We can help

Our team of specialist solicitors have helped many families where children were injured by negligence related to shoulder dystocia. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.