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Erb’s Palsy – Causes, Types & Treatments

Erb’s Palsy is a form of birth injury involving severe damage to the brachial plexus nerves, muscle and/or bones in a baby’s shoulder(s) and which often occurs during labor and delivery.

The brachial plexus nerves begin at the base of the neck where it meets the spinal column and extend through the neck to the upper shoulder and the arm. When there is damage to any of these nerves, the function and sensation in a person’s arm can be severely compromised.

What Causes Erb’s Palsy?

One of the primary causes of Erb’s Palsy is what is medically referred to as a shoulder dystocia. This is where one of the baby’s shoulders gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bones during labor and delivery.

When this occurs the health care provider responsible for the delivery must often twist and turn the baby’s head in relation to its body in order to get the rest of the body out.

However, if this is not done with extreme care and in the appropriate manner, the baby can suffer severe injury to the brachial plexus nerves.

What Are the Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s Palsy can mean permanent damage to the brachial plexus nerves, leaving the child with a limp, lifeless and useless arm (and hand) that will atrophy over time. Thus, the most apparent symptom of Erb’s Palsy is a limp or floppy arm, which is often apparent right after the baby is delivered.

Another symptom of Erb’s Palsy is what doctors refer to as an absent “startle reflex”. Simply put, this means that when the baby is startled by a loud noise, a falling sensation, or something disruptive, he or she responds by raising only one arm instead of both.

In fact, whenever a baby or child consistently uses one arm, but not the other, this is usually an indication of some type of problem.

Types of Erb’s Palsy

Types of Erb’s Palsy vary from the mild to the severe and generally depend upon the extent of damage sustained to the brachial plexus nerves.

In milder forms of Erb’s Palsy, the nerves may simply have been stretched (neuropraxia) due to the health care provider twisting, turning, and maneuvering the baby’s head in order to get its body out of the birth canal. This form of Erb’s Palsy may respond well to time, exercise, and physical therapy.

However, in the most severe forms of Erb’s Palsy, the nerve is partially torn or completely ripped away from the spinal column during delivery. Children who suffer this type of Erb’s Palsy are subject to lifelong disability to their arm(s) and/or shoulder(s) and will often need lifelong medical care.

Compensation for Erb’s Palsy?

Not all birth injuries are the result of a healthcare practitioner doing something wrong (medical malpractice). Nevertheless, if your child has sustained a birth injury like Erb’s Palsy, medical malpractice could quite possibly have been the cause.

If your child or a child of someone you know has sustained a severe birth injury like Erb’s Palsy and that you believe was caused by medical malpractice, it is important that you speak with an experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and your child’s lifelong needs.

Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today!

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