Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy, a condition affecting the network of nerves near the neck that give rise to all the nerves of the arm. Erb’s palsy and other types of brachial plexus palsy usually occurs in babies when too much force is applied to the baby’s head during delivery. In children born with Erb’s palsy, the upper part of the brachial plexus is affected, which means the child may be able to move his fingers without being able to move his shoulder. Brachial plexus palsy injuries like Erb’s palsy may occur during a difficult delivery, such as when the baby is large, the baby is in breech position, or the labor is prolonged. Erb’s palsy may also occur when a birth becomes complicated and the doctor must deliver the baby quickly, exerting some force to pull the baby from the birth canal. If one side of the baby’s neck is stretched during this process, the nerves may also be stretched, possibly resulting in Erb’s palsy. If your child has suffered from Erb’s palsy, and you believe a medical error to be the cause, contact a birth injury attorney to discuss your options for legal recourse.
Erb’s palsy typically results in varying degrees of weakness or paralysis of the shoulder, arm or hand. Because the nerves of the upper part of the brachial plexus are stretched, children with this condition may struggle with symptoms like:
A baby with this injury typically holds his limp arm down by his side with the forearm turned inward and the wrist bent.
In most cases of Erb’s palsy, the child can recover on his own, although it may take up to two years for a complete recovery. During this time, the child will require frequent examinations to see if the nerves are recovering properly. Treatments for children with Erb’s palsy vary from nonsurgical options like daily physical therapy to exploratory surgery if there is no improvement over the first three to six months. Unfortunately, nerve surgery will not restore normal function to the affected nerves, and it may take several months, or even years, for nerves repaired in the neck to reach the muscles of the lower arm and hand. About 20% of the time, the effects of Erb’s palsy are so severe that the nerves are actually torn or ruptured, in which case paralysis of the arm and shoulder is permanent.
Many children with Erb’s palsy will continue to have some weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand even with treatment. In some children, the affected arm is noticeably smaller than normal because the damaged nerves have an effect on their growth. Even though the affected arm will continue to grow as the child grows, the disparity in size will become more and more noticeable. If you or a loved one has suffered from Erb’s palsy, which you believe to be the result of a medical mistake, contact a birth injury attorney to discuss your legal options. You may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, doctor or Ob/Gyn responsible for your care, in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. By hiring a qualified birth injury lawyer to represent your case, you can collect the compensation you deserve and protect yourself and your family from additional harm.