Orange County Erb's Palsy Birth Injury Attorneys
Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that may be a result of medical errors or negligence leading to a traumatic or difficult birth. While some babies with Erb’s palsy are able to live healthy and normal lives, other babies with this condition may suffer severe and permanent injuries which could necessitate a lifetime of physical disability and psychological damage.
Tragically, most cases of Erb’s palsy are preventable through the exercise of proper medical care and monitoring before a baby is delivered and during the delivery process.
What Causes Erb’s Palsy?
The Cleveland Clinic reports that Erb’s palsy, technically known as Erb-Duchenne palsy, is a form of brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connects the shoulder, arm, and hand to the spine, and during an especially difficult delivery it is possible for these nerves to stretch or tear completely. If the damage sustained during birth is to the upper brachial plexus (the nerves that control neck, shoulder, and arm movement), the result is Erb’s palsy. If the damage is to the lower brachial plexus, the result is Dejerine-Klumpke (Klumpke’s) palsy.
Brachial plexus injuries like Erb’s palsy are most often a result of shoulder dystocia, which occurs during a slow or difficult delivery when one or both of the baby’s shoulders become under the mother’s pelvic bone. Shoulder dystocia is a birth emergency, and may lead to hypoxia or other birth injuries.
Other possible causes of Erb’s palsy include:
- Breech presentation
- Use of excessive force during delivery (twisting or pulling child too hard)
- Prolonged labor
- Abnormal birthing position
- Baby is too large for the birth canal (macrosomia)
- Weak contractions
- Improper use of vacuum extractor or forceps
In many cases, the causes of Erb’s palsy and brachial plexus injury are identifiable before any injury is sustained and may be avoided with proper intervention. Additionally, there are specific risk factors which may make Erb’s palsy or shoulder dystocia more likely and which should be identified during prenatal doctor visits or early in the delivery process. These include:
- Previous birth of children with shoulder dystocia to mother
- Previous birth of children with macrosomia to mother
- Maternal history of prolonged labor
- Gestational diabetes
- Small or abnormally shaped pelvic region or birth canal in mother
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
Signs a baby may be affected by Erb’s palsy include:
- Lack of muscle control in arm or hand
- Lack of feeling in arm or hand
- Little control of arm or hand movement
- No use of shoulder or elbow, but use of hands
- Paralysis of arm
- Decreased grip in one hand
- Numbness in affected arm
- Impaired circulation in affected arm
- Fingers and hand hanging limp
- Facial paralysis on one side
- Inability to sit up unassisted
- Inability to crawl
Erb’s Palsy Treatment
Treatment of Erb’s palsy varies depending on the extent of damage to the nerves, muscles, and tendons in a child’s neck and shoulders
In some cases, a brachial plexus injury like Erb’s palsy may heal on its own, and many children fully recover or show significant improvement within four months of birth.
If a baby’s Erb’s palsy does not rectify itself early, parents may need to perform physical therapy to keep the child’s affected joints, tendons, and muscles limber. This must be performed as frequently as possible, and parents should receive training from a physical therapist or pediatrician. Physical therapy may also help to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion to damaged areas.
Another non-surgical treatment that has proven beneficial to some Erb’s palsy treatment is the injection of Botox and the use of electrical stimulation on affected areas.
If physical therapy or other non-surgical treatments do not lead to an improvement in Erb’s palsy symptoms after a number of months, surgery may be necessary. Doctors may perform an exploratory procedure to assess the extent of brachial plexus damage and remove scar tissue in preparation for a graft with nerve harvested from another part of the child’s body. Nerve grafting has been the most successful surgery for children with Erb’s palsy, and results are most favorable when the surgery is performed at the youngest age possible.
Consequences of Erb’s Palsy
Fortunately, the majority of children who suffer from Erb’s palsy birth injuries make a full recovery within the first year of life, especially with proper treatment such as physical therapy. A child’s odds of recovery are highest when Erb’s palsy when treatment begins as early as possible.
Sadly, not every child with Erb’s palsy makes a full recovery. Some children suffer from permanent loss of function in the affected arm or abnormal movements or muscle contractions in one arm. In addition to the physical consequences of Erb’s palsy, many children also suffer from psychological damage caused by their frustration at their disability, social ostracization, and other issues.
Does your Child have Erb’s Palsy?
If your child suffered a shoulder dystocia injury like Erb’s palsy during birth, you may be entitled to compensation that can help you provide the best care for that child and ensure a more secure future for your whole family. In many cases, Erb’s palsy is a completely preventable complication of a difficult delivery, and it is entirely possible that medical negligence or malpractice led to your child’s suffering. For more information on Erb’s palsy and birth injury lawsuits, please contact our experienced attorneys today.