Birth Injury to the Spinal Cord – Minnesota Medical Malpractice Lawyers


Common cause of spinal cord birth injury – forceps

During the delivery of a baby, forceps (a tool used to grasp and maneuver the head) can cause temporary or permanent injury to various parts of the spinal cord.  These injuries, which can be bruises or tears, occur in various ways, depending on how the forceps were used and how the baby was positioned.

Complicated births can lead to spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries are rare during ordinary vaginal births, but more complicated births, particularly when a baby is in a face-first or a breech position in the womb (feet down, instead of head down in preparation for birth), have higher risks for spinal damage.  The most common location of spinal cord birth trauma is in the neck (cervical area), followed by the upper back (thoracic area).  Injuries in the lower back (lumbar area) are relatively rare.

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury that occurred at birth

Just as the injuries to a baby’s spinal cord take place in different areas and have different severity, they cause different symptoms.  The most common symptoms of spinal cord damage in infants include spasms, inability to move, loss of the sense of touch, stinging sensations, weakness, and abnormal breathing and reflexes.  A more serious injury may cause paralysis, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and even death.

Infant spinal cord injuries have serious consequences

Whether an infant can recover from a spinal cord injury depends on the extent of the damage. Think of the spinal cord like a road, back in the days before phones or the internet: if a road was cut off, messengers could not get through.  However, if the road was only partially blocked, it might impede messages, but they would get through eventually, and the sender and recipient could stay in contact and coordinate to fix the road.  Similarly, while a complete injury stops commands like “feet, walk” travelling down the spinal cord from the brain, or sensory signals like “this carpet feels nice” traveling up the other way, a partial injury does not totally impede those signals, and some motor and sensory function might come back with time and therapy.


Braces, physical or occupational therapy, and steroids can prevent more damage and help restore function.

Spinal Cord injuries are often a result of medical malpractice

Spinal cord injuries can often be avoided through skillful, careful forceps use, informed by a full understanding of the baby’s position in utero and in the birth canal.  Some factors increase the risk that a baby will suffer a birth-related spinal cord injury.  These include prematurity, pre-existing vertebral anomalies, or delivery after a very quick labor.  In these cases, the obstetric team should exercise more caution to prevent spinal injury.  Furthermore, if a fetus has developed a birth defect called spina bifida, the medical team needs to be aware of that condition and avoid damage to the baby’s vulnerable spinal column and nerves.

Get help for your child today – we advocate for victims of birth injuries

If your child or a loved one’s child has suffered from a spinal cord injury during birth, contact a us today at (612) 444-3374 for a free consultation and to learn more about your rights and options.  We rare a Minnesota medical malpractice law firm representing victims of birth injuries in Minneapolis, St. Paul and throughout the state.  Once we examine your case, we can help you to determine if your child’s birth injury was a result of medical negligence and whether it makes sense to pursue a medical malpractice case.

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