Klumpke’s Palsy (also known as Klumpke’s Paralysis) is a type of paralysis that affects one’s brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a group of nerve fibers that form along the spine, neck, arms, and hands. The palsy was named after neurologist Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke who, among her many accomplishments, was the first woman to intern at a Paris hospital in 1886.
What’s the Initial Cause?
Klumpke’s palsy is caused during difficult childbirths. The most common cause of this difficult childbirth is shoulder dystocia. This is when, during childbirth, the head is delivered, and the shoulder of the newborn is caught in the mother’s pubic bone. This is especially prevalent when the baby has too large a weight (over 5000 grams). Injuries can arise in the brachial plexus if the baby is forcibly pulled from the birth canal as a result of the dystocia.
What Exactly Causes the Paralysis?
More specifically, the paralysis forms in the muscles of the forearm and hand. The specific names of the muscles are the interossei, thenar, and hypothenar. The eyelids can also be affected by the palsy (eyelid drooping and pupil dilation). As a result of this birth defect, the “claw hand” is formed so the forearm is supinated (or faced upwards or outwards) and the fingers and wrist are permanently flexed.
Is There Treatment?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment. However, physical or occupational therapy can be used to relieve symptoms. For more serious cases (particularly in the case of severe nerve damage), surgery is an option. Research involving stem cells is also being done to help determine how to repair muscle function. Most newborns that are affected with the palsy spontaneously recover about 4 months after childbirth.
What is the Prevalence?
Unlike some other palsy’s that affect the brachial plexus, including the similar Erb’s Palsy (which affects the spine), according to the Office of Rare Diseases of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Klumpke Palsy is considered a rare diseases. Only fewer than 200,000 are affected in the United States.
Are there Any Organizations or Communities I Should Know About?
There are plenty of organizations that support Klumpke’s palsy and other similar birth defects. This includes the Brachial Plexus Palsy Foundation headquartered in Pennsylvania. There is also the United Brachial Plexus Network in Ohio. For more general support options, go on the NIH website.