What Are Cranial Nerve Injuries?

What Are Cranial Nerve Injuries?There are 12 sets of cranial nerves which lead from the brain to other parts of the body. A cranial nerve injury, therefore, is an injury to one of those 12 sets of nerves.

Cranial nerve injuries can affect both adults and infants. However, most of the time, adults experience cranial nerve injuries because of head trauma, and babies experience it because of birth trauma. It usually causes you or the baby to experience asymmetrical movements in the face or even facial paralysis.

What are the symptoms of a cranial nerve injury?

The signs and symptoms of a cranial nerve injury typically depend on which nerves are injured or damaged. However, most of the time, you or your baby may:

  • Have challenges closing your eyelids,
  • Present with an asymmetrical face,
  • Have loss of normal nasolabial fold (area around the lips), and
  • Experience facial paralysis.

Other signs include pain, muscle weakness, hearing loss, vertigo, loss of smell or taste, trouble swallowing, and more.

Can damaged cranial nerves heal?

There is a possibility that damaged cranial nerves can heal or recover with time. However, it depends how severe the damage is, and which cranial nerves are damaged. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe medications or even suggest simply taking the time to rest and relax in order to heal, but if the nerves are severely damaged, they may recommend surgery to repair them. According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, some nerves can be repaired “to satisfactory degrees,” while others can only be repaired to “a limited degree.” The sooner that you get medical assistance and treatment, the more likely your nerves will successfully heal or recover.

What is the most common cranial nerve injury?

The most common cranial nerve injury is a facial nerve injury. (Fourth one down on the left on the diagram below.)

What Are Cranial Nerve Injuries?

As you can see, the facial nerve affects movement and taste. Facial nerve injuries during birth are usually caused by the head, jaw, and neck becoming compressed against the shoulder. This can cause the nerves to be compressed or damaged.

Of course, this is not the only cranial nerve that can be damaged during birth. Four separate cranial nerves affect sight and vision, meaning your child may sustain injuries that leave him or her with temporary or permanent vision damage, including total or partial blindness.

Damage to the vagus nerves, which run through the neck and can be compressed or damaged during birth or during a c-section, can affect the “regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate,” and potentially be fatal.

How exactly would my baby get a cranial nerve injury or damage?

During birth, your baby’s skull changes to successfully fit through their mother’s pelvic area. This can cause the baby’s head and facial bones to shift, which can lead to compression. While most of the time, these bones will go back to their normal place on their own, the doctor may have pulled too hard or used too much force when delivering the baby, causing too much shifting and moving in the bones to occur. As a result, the cranial and facial bones may be unable to naturally heal on their own. This typically happens during a very challenging birth.

How do you test a baby for cranial nerve damage?

When a doctor tests your baby for cranial nerve damage, they are watching and observing the baby for any signs that may indicate that cranial nerve damage is present. For example, they may watch the baby as they begin to cry to see if the facial movement is normal or if there is facial asymmetry. They may also determine whether the baby can suck or swallow normally, whether they respond to light or sound, and whether their eye movements are normal while looking straight ahead and when the head is turned. During these series of tests and observations, the doctor may use lights and a reflex hammer, which will not cause your baby any harm or pain.

At Merkel & Cocke, PA, our Mississippi birth injury lawyers are always available and ready to assist clients throughout the state. We have over four decades of experience with these types of cases, which means you can depend on us to thoroughly investigate your case, help you collect convincing evidence, and stand up and fight for the maximum compensation you need and deserve. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your free, no-obligation case review today. We have offices in Clarksdale, Oxford, Jackson, and Greenville.