Erb’s palsy is a common result of brachial plexus birth injuries. It affects the shoulder, arm, and hand, and it is preventable. Some cases Erb’s palsy can be improved with medical treatment; others will result in life-time disability.
Brachial plexus injury
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves located between the neck and shoulder. This nerve bundle can be damaged during birth by pushing or pulling on a baby whose shoulder is wedged behind the mother’s pubic bone, a condition called shoulder dystocia. Erb’s palsy is just one of several types of harm which can result from brachial plexus injuries.
The extent of disability and disfigurement caused by Erb’s palsy will depend on the severity of the original injury and the effectiveness of treatment and therapy. Complications from Erb’s palsy can include:
- Shorter than normal arm
- Rotated arm
- Downward sloped shoulder
- Winged shoulder blade
- Flexed elbow
- Atrophy of the shoulder and arm muscles
- Loss of feeling in shoulder, arm and hand
- Paralysis of shoulder, arm and hand
- Hand which does not function properly
Early detection of risk factors for shoulder dystocia, and performing a C-section, when possible, is the best way to prevent Erb’s palsy. Risk factors include:
- Maternal obesity
- Above-normal weight gain during pregnancy
- High pre-birth weight of the baby
- Advanced age of mother
- Maternal diabetes
- Short or small mother
- Flat, contracted or exceptionally small pelvis
- Abnormally long gestation period
- Prolonged labor
- Breech position
If a C-section is not a safe option or if shoulder dystocia is not detected early enough to alert doctors that a C-section is necessary, certain actions can be taken by the doctor during vaginal birth to prevent brachial plexus injury.
Treatment and recovery
Most cases of Erb’s palsy can be treated with physical therapy and exercises. About 20% of Erb’s palsy victims will require surgery to reconnect nerves. Surgery, when necessary, is usually performed when your baby is between five months and one year old. In order to maximize the chances of recovery Erb’s palsy must be detected early. Signs of Erb’s palsy include:
- Inability to move a shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist or hand
- Little control over movement in a shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist or hand
- No feeling in an arm or hand
- Paralysis or limpness of arm or hand
- Facial paralysis on one side
- Inability to sit up without assistance
- Inability to crawl without assistance
If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy and you believe the condition was caused by medical or obstetrical negligence, please call or email our birth injury lawyers today.
Our skilled medical malpractice lawyers will review your Erb’s palsy injury claim and help you get the compensation you need to secure your child’s and your family’s future.