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How do spinal cord injuries occur during birth?

Childbirth can be a very difficult time for the mother and baby. When the infant is being born, he or she must be handled very carefully, as it is possible for trauma to occur if too much force is used during the delivery. This is true no matter which way the baby is presenting during the birth.

How does the delivery presentation affect a spinal cord injury?

Vertex deliveries, which are those that involve a baby born in a head-first position, are associated with higher level of injury. In these births, the injuries are most likely to be in the upper to mid-level cervical spine area. Breech deliveries are associated with injuries that are slightly farther down the spinal column in the lower cervical and upper thoracic spine.

What types of spinal cord injuries might occur?

The most common type of spinal cord injury that a baby might suffer during birth is an acute lesion. These injuries are hemorrhagic lesions that can affect the intraspinal and epidural areas. In some cases, dura of the spinal cord might be torn. It is also possible that there will be a dislocation or fracture present, but those injuries are more rare.

Are these injuries fatal?

It is possible that these birth injuries could be fatal. Stillbirth or rapid death are possible because of the lack of oxygen when the brain stem and upper cervical cord are affected by the injury. If the newborn does survive, there is a chance that there will be lasting effects, such as spasticity, that require more extensive medical care.

A newborn suffering a spinal cord injury is traumatic for the baby and the parents. Parents might choose to seek compensation for the injury to their child if it was caused by the actions of a medical professional.

Source: Medscape, "Birth Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury," Nirupama Laroia, MBBS, MD, accessed Aug. 25, 2016

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