Spinal Cord Injuries Related To Birth Injuries

spinal cord birth injuryUnder the best of circumstances, the delivery process is a traumatic experience for the newborn. In some cases, doctors cause a birth injury or death to the infant by applying too much force during the delivery process. It is heartbreaking for new parents when a doctor, who has been trusted to assist with the birth process, causes serious injury or even death to a newborn infant in a case of medical malpractice.

An article entitled Latent Spinal Cord and Brain Stem Injury in Newborn Infants published in the medical journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology states that spinal cord and brain stem injuries occur frequently during birth, but often escape diagnosis. The article states that children who survive a birth injury may have lasting neurologic defects. The occurrence of brain stem or spinal cord injury in 10 to 33 percent of all autopsied neonatal deaths indicates the significance of this form of birth trauma.

How Do Most Spinal Cord Birth Injuries Occur?

Medscape reports that significant birth injury occurs at an average rate of 6 to 8 injuries per 1000 live births, with higher injury rates reported for larger babies. It lists the following as included among the risk factors for birth trauma:

  • Excessive or abnormal traction during delivery
  • Use of instruments during delivery – vacuum or forceps
  • Vaginal breech deliveries
  • Infants weighing more than 9.9 lbs.
Spinal cord birth injury results from excessive traction or rotation during delivery. Traction is a greater factor in breech deliveries (when the baby’s buttocks or feet are positioned to come out first), and torsion (twisting) is more significant in vertex deliveries (when the baby’s head is down in the proper position for birth).

What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Cord Birth Injury

Spinal cord birth injury is sometimes misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy – a disorder that can be caused by a birth injury to the brain. The symptoms are similar. Boston Children’s Hospital reports that symptoms of spinal cord injury in children may include:

  • Complete or partial loss of movement in the chest, arms, or legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Partial or complete loss of feeling in the chest, arms, or legs
  • Loss of function of bladder or bowels

Paralysis can result from spinal cord injury. Generally, the higher on the spine the injury occurs, the greater the affected area. The level of injury and resulting paralysis can be:

  1. Complete: No sensation or ability to control movement below the level of the injury; or
  2. Incomplete: Some level of sensation and control of muscle movement below the level of the injury.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury

If your infant has symptoms of spinal cord injury, the treating physician will conduct a comprehensive physical examination. For further evaluation, the doctor may order any of the following tests:


  • Blood test


  • X-rays: Small radiation doses are used to take pictures of the body


  • CT (computed tomography) scan: A non-invasive procedure using x-ray and computer technology to create detailed images of different parts of the body


  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Electromagnets, radio frequency waves, and computer technology are used to take 2- and 3-dimensional images of the spine and other body parts.

Treatment for spinal cord injury will be customized to your child’s individual needs, including:


  • Surgery


  • Medication


  • Mobility assistance devices


  • Breathing support


  • Bowel and bladder support


  • Feeding support


  • Physical therapy

Legal Help for Spinal Cord Birth Injury Caused By Medical Error

A spinal cord injury suffered at birth will often affect the child for a lifetime. Your family may face lifelong challenges in helping a child deal with a debilitating birth injury. If your child sustained a spinal cord injury at birth as a result of medical negligence, you and your family deserve the maximum possible in compensatory damages.

Like all medical malpractice matters, spinal cord birth injury cases are extremely complex. If your child has suffered a spinal cord injury through medical error during the birth process, you need a medical malpractice lawyer who understands the intricacies of the medical and legal issues involved.


At Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., we have successfully represented many families dealing with serious birth injuries. Our lawyers have been awarded membership in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum® and listed among New York Super Lawyers®. We have the experience and the legal acumen necessary to help you to pursue justice and full compensation in a birth injury case. Our team is available 24/7 for a free initial consultation.


Wiley Online Library: Towbin, A. (1969), Latent Spinal Cord and Brain Stem Injury in Newborn Infants. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8749.1969.tb01395.x/abstract

Medscape: Birth Trauma http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/980112-overview

The Bump: Q&A: Will my baby be breech?             http://pregnant.thebump.com/pregnancy/third-trimester/qa/will-my-baby-be-breech.aspx

Boston Children’s Hospital: Kids MD Health Topics: Spinal Cord Injury http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/spinal-cord-injury