Erb’s Palsy Lawyers Serving the Injured and their Families in
Stamford, Danbury, Bridgeport and throughout Connecticut
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.
The medical malpractice attorneys of Berkowitz and Hanna LLC 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.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
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:
- Inability to move the upper or lower arm and/or hand
- An arm is limp, bent at elbow, and held against the body
- Decreased grip due to weak arm
- Inability to rotate the arm from the shoulder
- Partial or complete arm paralysis
- Arm numbness
- Atrophy of arm muscles
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:
- Infants should be referred to multidisciplinary specialty treatment, including pediatric neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers.
- For less severe injuries, massage of the affected arm, along with range of motion exercises by physical and occupational therapists, may reduce the symptoms. Parents also need to continue to work with the child at home, as exercises done at home can improve the child’s ability to use the affected arm.
- If normal neurological function does not return in six to eight weeks, surgery may be an option. Surgical reconstruction of the brachial plexus may increase the chances of a full recovery.
- The sooner the surgery is performed, the greater the chance is for full recovery for the infant.
- The best results generally occur when surgery is performed three to six months after birth and diagnosis. When avulsion and rupture injuries occur, the infant is unlikely to recover on his or her own.
Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC to Discuss Your Erb’s Palsy Case
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 Berkowitz and Hanna LLC 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 us today at (866) 479-7909 or request a free consultation on our contact us page.