Childbirth can be a traumatic experience for both mother and child. While most of the time any injuries incurred during the birthing process are minor and clear up quickly, sometimes the injuries are more serious and can result in potentially life-long complications. Facial paralysis is a birth injury that falls under the latter category. This injury can resolve on its own, however, in some cases it can result in lasting problems for the affected child. Facial paralysis can be caused by a number of different things including medical error. If you think your child's birth injury was a result of medical malpractice, contact the law firm of Gilman and Bedigian today.
According to the Facial Nerve Institute at St. Louis Children's Hospital, the facial nerve, also called the seventh cranial nerve, is the pathway along which the brain sends signals to the muscles of the face and allows people to make expressions. This nerve “begins in the brainstem, then takes a course through the temporal bone of the skull, before dividing into multiple branches within the face.” Each of these different nerve branches “provides specific movement.” If this nerve is injured or has an issue then it may result in facial paralysis.
Causes of Facial Paralysis
There are over 100 possible cause of facial paralysis, including congenital causes such as Möbius Syndrome or Hemifacial Microsomnia, or the injury could be due to birth-related causes such as trauma suffered due to the use of a delivery assistance device like forceps.
Facial paralysis that occurs at birth can also be the result of a difficult or traumatic labor. This type of facial paralysis is called acquired facial paralysis and is caused by the use of forceps during the delivery process. Forceps are used in a vaginal delivery, either as a method to deliver the child or to assist during the delivery. According to the Mayo Clinic, forceps are “an instrument shaped like a large pair of spoons or salad tongs.” This device is applied to the “baby's head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal” usually “during a contraction while the mother pushes.”
The use of this device may be recommended if a mother's labor is not progressing or if the baby is in jeopardy.
While facial paralysis due to birth trauma is usually just temporary and goes away after a few months, “in other cases the paralysis can persist, resulting in a difference in movement between the two sides of the face.” If this occurs then the surgery may be needed.
Medical Malpractice And Facial Paralysis
If the cause of an infant's facial paralysis is genetic or inherited, it is likely there is nothing the doctor could have done to prevent this from occurring. However, if a child's face is partially or completely paralyzed due to trauma suffered during the birthing process, then the doctor may be at fault if he or she did not use the appropriate standard of care. For example, if a forceps is being used during delivery and too much pressure is applied, this could result in an injury to the facial nerve and facial paralysis. The failure to properly use the forceps could result in the doctor being held liable for any injuries that resulted from the doctor's error.
Contact A Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
If your child has facial paralysis and you think it is the result of medical malpractice during your child's birth, contact the legal team at Gilman and Bedigian for a free case consultation today.