Bell's Palsy Birth Injury Lawsuits
Bell’s palsy occurs when the nerve controlling facial movements is damaged during birth. The most common cause of facial nerve palsy (sometimes referred to as Bell's palsy) is trauma and while most cases cure themselves, the nerve damage is permanent in some children and affects one side of their faces for the rest of their lives.
The improper use of instruments such as forceps, rough treatment of the mother or child during birth, or even negligent use of medications can all cause or contribute to facial muscles and nerves that can lead to facial paralysis.
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are dedicated to holding medical professionals accountable for negligent acts and representing the injured and their families. We can help you take legal action when medical negligence has caused your baby's injury.
We are birth injury attorneys that are here to help you with legal advice. Call us for a free consultation to learn your legal rights.
Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
Careful observation of a newborn when they cry is often enough to reveal damage to the seventh cranial nerve— the nerve that controls facial movements.
Most bell's palsy symptoms affect the mouth and neighboring facial muscles but more severe cases can affect an entire side of the child's face, making it impossible for the child to open and close an eyelid, or move any muscle on the side of their face.
Common symptoms of idiopathic facial paralysis (bell's palsy) include:
- Facial muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
- Sudden, unilateral facial weakness or paralysis that occurs over a period of hours to days
- The droopy appearance of facial muscles
- Eyelid and facial drooping and inability to close eye
- Chronic facial pain from permanent nerve damage
- Upper and lower facial weakness
- Excessive tearing in the affected eye due to the inability to blink
- Diminished sense of taste on the ipsilateral (same side) two-thirds of the tongue
- Dryness of the ipsilateral eye and mouth
- Sudden weakness where one eye drops from damaged nerve cells
- Mild weakness or total paralysis of the affected side of the face
- Pain behind the ear on the affected side
- Abnormal regrowth of the facial nerve fibers
If your child's face looks uneven when he or she cries or makes facial expressions, it is important to have the child examined by a doctor to determine the presence of bell’s palsy.
Causes and Prognosis for Children With Bell's Palsy
The vast majority of cases (approximately 90%) are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. However, there are many theories as to what may trigger the condition, including:
- A viral infection such as herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes zoster virus (shingles) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Autoimmune conditions such as sarcoidosis, lupus, and Sjögren syndrome
- Brain tumor
- Myasthenia gravis
- Neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and stroke
While the exact cause of most cases of bell's palsy is unknown, it is thought that in many instances, a bacterial infection or inflammation of the facial nerve (the seventh cranial nerve) may be to blame.
Damaged Facial Nerves
The most likely culprit behind viral-triggered cases is the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is responsible for cold sores and genital herpes.
Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, syphilis, and leprosy have also been associated with the condition. In some cases, trauma or tumors may compress or damage the facial nerve, leading to facial weakness or paralysis.
Less common neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and stroke have also been associated with bell's palsy.
While the cause of most cases of bell's palsy is unknown, there are many theories as to what may trigger the condition, including viral infections, bacterial infections, autoimmune conditions, trauma, and tumors.
Rough treatment of the infant during delivery or shortly after is the primary cause of bell’s palsy. This can include improper use of forceps at the time of birth, shaking the child, moving the mother too aggressively while she is in labor, or any other action that is considered too aggressive or harsh for a newborn.
Sometimes, bell’s palsy could be avoided by the decision to deliver the baby through a cesarean section procedure instead of subjecting the mother to difficult labor.
Many cases of bell’s palsy result from the medical negligence of the doctor. Other cases result from birth trauma or difficult delivery. In most instances, this is an avoidable type of birth injury when the baby struggles to make it through the birth canal. It only occurs on its own in rare cases.
Damage in Mild Cases Are Often Reversible
There is a positive prognosis in most cases and the nerve controlling the affected muscles in the child's face begin to function again within several months. Physical/occupational therapy can also help restore the infant's face or facial muscles.
Some instances of the condition are mild cases that are reversible.
In the event that the issue does not go away on its own, the child may never recover function in the affected muscles, which can be the cause of emotional trauma later in life. In a worst-case scenario, the child can suffer infant facial paralysis..
Those Most at Risk of Bell’s Palsy
According to the Cleveland Clinic, bell’s palsy affects men and women equally. However, pregnant women are at higher risk of nerve swelling of muscles that control facial expressions leading to bell palsy.
Children 14 years old and younger and seniors over 60 have a significantly lower risk of developing the common symptoms of bell’s palsy than all other age groups.
The National Institute of Health states that doctors use different diagnostic information to help diagnose bell’s palsy, including blood tests, the patient’s family history, and EMG tests. EMG (electromyography) uses very thin wire electrodes inserted into facial muscles to help diagnose bell’s palsy.
Bell’s palsy diagnosed early followed by an effective treatment could minimize pain and discomfort when symptoms develop from nerve inflammation in the area where the nerve passes through a bony canal.
Risk Factors for Bell’s Palsy
According to a bell’s palsy fact sheet, there are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing bell's palsy, including:
- Age: Bell's palsy is most common in adults aged 20-60 years.
- Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant are more susceptible to developing the condition due to the changes in their hormone levels.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing bell's palsy due to the increased levels of sugar in their blood, which can damage nerves.
- Viral infection: Many symptoms of bell's palsy might be the result of viral infections that affect facial muscles. These infections can include HSV, VZV, EBV, and HIV.
- A bacterial infection such as Lyme disease, syphilis, and leprosy can also lead to bell's palsy.
- Autoimmune conditions: Autoimmune conditions such as sarcoidosis, lupus, and Sjögren syndrome have also been linked to bell's palsy.
- Trauma: Trauma or tumors may compress or damage the facial nerve, leading to facial paralysis.
- High blood pressure could create a heightened risk of bell palsy
- Neurological conditions: Neurological conditions and rare disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and stroke have also been associated with bell's palsy.
- Upper respiratory infections: People with upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu, are more likely to develop bell's palsy.
- HIV/AIDS: People with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to developing the condition due to the weakened state of their immune system.
Treatment for Bell’s Palsy
According to the Cleveland Clinic, steroids, anti-viral medications, and therapy are all effective treatment options for bell's palsy. In most cases, the condition will resolve on its own within a few weeks to months, but these treatments can help to speed up the recovery process and reduce the severity of symptoms.
However, there are a number of treatments that can be used to help speed up the recovery process and reduce the severity of symptoms, including:
- Steroids: Steroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can help reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerves in the face.
- Anti-viral medications: Anti-viral medications, such as acyclovir (Zovirax) and valacyclovir (Valtrex), can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and speed up recovery in people with HSV-triggered bell's palsy.
- Physical therapy involving facial exercises can help to strengthen the muscles on the affected side of the face and improve the range of motion.
- Lubricating eye drops including artificial tears, eye gels, and ointments are highly effective for most people with bell’s palsy.
Oral steroids, anti-viral medications, and ongoing physical therapy are all effective treatments for bell's palsy. In most cases, the condition will resolve on its own within a few weeks to months, but these treatments can help to speed up the recovery process and reduce the severity of bell’s palsy symptoms.
Some doctors recommend alternative therapies such as acupuncture and electrical stimulation, but there is limited evidence to support their use.
If your child's face looks uneven when they cry or makes facial expressions, it is important to have the child examined by a doctor to determine the presence of facial palsy.
Brachial Plexus and Erb’s Palsy
Some cases of bell’s palsy are also accompanied by other injuries such as Erb's Palsy or a brachial plexus injury. These can all cause some form of paralysis.
Not all people with bell’s palsy recover fully in cases where there is significant nerve damage in the facial canal. Doctors might recommend, various procedures including:
- Decompression surgery
- Reconstructive surgery to repair the cranial nerve
- Neck surgery
Bell’s Palsy Attorneys
While it is never the intention of a medical professional to harm their patient, when an act of negligence or medical malpractice results in injuries that affect the patient's quality of living, compensation must be provided for the ongoing treatment of the injuries as well as any pain and suffering that is endured.
If your child was injured during birth, contact the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC at (888) 424-5757 today to speak with a qualified birth injury lawyer who will help you explore your legal options and explain your rights in greater detail.
Our consultations are free of charge and we do not require payment upfront. After investigating the circumstances of your case, including a review of medical records, we will be able to guide you through the following steps and help you understand the process of litigation so that you know what to expect.
Because we work on a contingency basis, you will never be expected to pay anything unless we are able to successfully collect compensation on your behalf.