Atlanta Facial Paralysis Lawyers
Natural childbirth has its risks. One of them is trauma to the seventh cranial nerve, which can lead to partial or complete paralysis of a newborn’s face.
A child with facial paralysis will not be able to control his or her facial muscles, and often has drooping eyelids and lips. The lack of movement will be most noticeable when the child cries. If you notice any sign of birth injury, you should schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor right away. Though most facial paralysis is minor and heals on its own, some cases require ongoing medical treatment. In certain cases, the condition may be permanent, and cause lifelong disfigurement.
If a medical provider caused, misdiagnosed, or didn’t properly treat your child’s facial nerve damage, that medical provider should be held liable for the injury and costs of treatment. Please consult with an Atlanta birth injury attorney at Grant Law Office to see if you have a valid claim. Our local number is (404) 995-3955 and our toll-free number is (866) 249-5513. Your initial consultation is free.
In a baby, this paralysis or "palsy" usually affects the lower muscles of the face, especially around the lips. Palsy can be caused by infection or inflammation of the facial nerve (Bell’s palsy), trauma to the head or face during childbirth, a stroke, or a congenital disorder. Here are more details:
- Bell’s palsy: This inflammation of the facial nerve has no known cause, but has been linked to certain maternal infections, such as herpes. Bell’s palsy is either partial (unilateral) or total paralysis of the face. Prior to birth, mothers should be screened for viral or bacterial infections, and given antibiotics to prevent transmission to the fetus.
- Head trauma: This can range from a skull fracture to "excessive molding" (when the baby’s head changes shape due to sustained pressure in the womb) to pressure on the cranial nerve. Head trauma is often caused by forceps, a labor-assisting tool shaped like salad tongs used to pull the baby out of the birth canal.
- Stroke: A blood clot that stops blood flowing to the brain is an ischemic stroke, and when a blood vessel in brain breaks, it’s a hemorrhagic stroke. Either stroke can be caused by high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormally shaped blood vessels, or an aneurysm: a weakened section of the vessel that "balloons" out. Bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage) can be caused by internal or external forces. Without oxygen, it only takes three to four minutes for brain cells to start dying, and babies can suffer brain damage or death unless emergency medical treatment is given.
Most facial palsy is temporary and will go away on its own, but physicians need to closely monitor the baby. Some cases are congenital, meaning they were not caused by birth trauma, but already existed. Doctors need to assess each child to decipher how the paralysis occurred, because that will determine the prognosis and treatment plan.
Eye care is the most important step if the baby has facial nerve damage. When an eyelid can’t close, the eye can dry out and particles can enter in, scratching the cornea and damaging it. The child should be given artificial tears and padding to protect the eye.
If the facial palsy hasn’t improved in about three months, plastic surgery may be necessary to correct a mouth droop or an eyelid that can’t close. In severe cases, the infant may need surgery to transplant muscle and nerve tissue to the affected area, or relieve pressure on the nerve.
Your medical provider should have been on guard for the following risk factors, because they are more likely to allow or cause injury to a baby’s facial nerve:
- Larger baby
- Abnormal presentation, such as a breech delivery
- Cephalopelvic disproportion, when the mother pelvis is too small to fit the baby’s head
- Prolonged labor, which can lead to excessive molding of the baby’s head
- Use of epidural anesthesia, which leads to longer labor
- Use of forceps, which can inflict physical trauma to the baby’s face
- Use of labor-inducing medication, like Pitocin, which cause more forceful, constant contractions
Soon after birth, the baby may have bruising behind the ear (which may take up to 24 hours to appear) and on the face. Sometimes, if the skull was fractured, there will be bleeding inside the middle ear.
Mild cases of palsy are usually not noticed at birth, but noticed later on by family members. Since facial paralysis can also be a sign of stroke, it’s important to get your baby checked out immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:
- The baby’s "crying face" is asymmetrical
- There is little to no movement on one side of the baby’s face
- The baby can’t control blinking in the affected eye, the eyelid sags
- The baby’s lips droop on the affected side, leading to drooling
- The baby has difficulty feeding
In rare cases, the muscles of the child’s face can be permanently paralyzed, and require invasive, long-term medical care to treat.
If you believe your baby was born with a preventable birth injury, you may be able to hold the negligent doctor, nurses, or medical center responsible. Contact the husband and wife legal team of Wayne and Kimberly Grant for a free consultation at (404) 995-3955 or toll-free (866) 249-5513. We will thoroughly investigate your claim, and if we find negligence, we will represent you at no upfront cost. Only when your child receives just compensation will we take our fee.
- Family Practice Notebook: Facial Nerve Injury from Birth Trauma
- Sharma D, Murki S, Dhanraj G. Traumatic facial nerve palsy in newborn: A benign condition. J Clin Neonatology 2015; 4:213-4
- Cleveland Clinic: Intracranial Hemorrhages
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