Erb’s palsy, or Erb-Duchenne palsy, impacts one to two out of every thousand infants born each year in the United States. It is the effect of a birth injury caused by a stretching or tearing of the brachial plexus, the system of nerves from the spinal cord to the arms and hands. A child with Erb’s palsy may be unable to move his or her arm, partially or totally, or may be able to just move his or her fingers.
Our dedicated birth injury attorneys help families of children with Erb’s palsy obtain fair compensation due to medical negligence that may have caused the injury. We have a significant amount of experience making parties responsible for these injuries accountable, so that families and children will be better able to cope with the injuries and their life-long effects.
Newborns can sustain brachial plexus injuries when there are problems during birth, such as a breech presentation or prolonged labor. Additionally, if an infant’s shoulders get wedged within the birth canal, there is an increased risk of brachial plexus palsy. Beyond these common causes, the brachial plexus can also be injured when the infant is larger than normal (more than nine pounds at full-term) or when a healthcare provider (a doctor, midwife, or nurse) pulls the baby from the birth canal with too much force.
There are four types of brachial plexus injury: Avulsion, the most severe type, occurs when the nerve is ripped from the spine. Rupture occurs when the nerve is torn but not at the point at which it is attached to the spine. Neuroma is when the nerve is torn and has tried to heal but scar tissue has grown around the site. And Neuropraxia (stretch), the most common form of injury, occurs when the nerve has been damaged but not torn.
Symptoms of Erb’s palsy may be apparent upon, or very soon after, birth. These include:
Diagnosing and assessing the severity of brachial plexus injuries are normally based on the physical examination and diagnostic testing of the infant. There may be a nerve conduction study or an MRI. In newborns, the injury is normally easily detected when the infant cannot actively move an upper extremity and has a limited range of motion on the affected side. X-rays can be taken to check for arm fractures or for paralysis of the hemidiaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen and serves as the main muscle of respiration), which would indicate injury to the phrenic nerve. MRI of the brachial plexus and cervical cord may be the best imaging technique for discovering Erb’s palsy.
Erb’s palsy is treatable, but results will vary. Here are some things to take into consideration:
If your child has Erb’s palsy, it may have been caused by the mistake or negligence of an obstetrician, midwife, or other healthcare staff who was responsible for your baby’s delivery. Failing to recognize the risk factors or respond to them appropriately, as well as delegating the delivery procedure of a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to inexperienced, junior staff, may be the direct cause of this type of birth injury.
If you suspect that your baby’s Erb’s palsy was caused by some form of medical malpractice, contact one of our Connecticut erb’s palsy attorneys today so that we can talk about your infant’s condition, the delivery, applicable laws, and how to protect both your rights and those of your infant. Call to learn more.