Erb’s palsy is a nerve injury that occurs during difficult birthing procedures – normally involving the delivery of large babies, breech delivery or prolonged labor. Named for one of the physicians who first diagnosed the condition (Wilhelm Erb), Erb’s palsy affects one or two of every 1,000 babies born, the condition is the result of nerve damage sustained from actions such stretching or rotating the baby’s head and shoulders during delivery. In this article, we’ll discuss the risk factors associated with Erb’s palsy, its symptoms and possible treatment options.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the neck region that control feelings and movement of our upper limbs. During delivery, the baby’s brachial plexus can become compacted, which can lead to stretching and tears.
The baby is especially vulnerable during delivery because there are two opposing forces at work:
- The natural force from the mother’s body to force the baby from her body
- The force being applied by the attending physician to position the baby
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
Because the condition is caused at birth, recognizing Erb’s palsy should be fairly easy. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- Inability to move the affect arm or shoulder
- Absence of reflexes with the affected limb
- No feeling in the affected limb
- Arm being bent back towards the body
- Weakened grip strength in affected arm
Treatment Options for Erb’s Palsy
We’re not being alarmists when we say that Erb’s palsy is a serious matter. If left untreated, it can lead to full or partial paralysis of the affected arm, muscle tissue wasting away (atrophy) or permanent loss of sensation in the arm.
In the majority of cases, recovering from Erb’s palsy can be accomplished using physical therapy or surgery. If surgery is chosen, the best results occur when done during the first three-to-six-months after birth. The longer it’s prolonged, the less likely it is that the nerves will recover their functions. The types of surgeries involved include:
- Nerve graft – the damaged nerve area is removed and replaced with healthy nerves taken from other parts of the body
- Nerve transfer – used when a nerve root has been separated from the spine cord. During this procedure, another nerve still attached to the spinal cord is connected to the displaced nerve.
- Muscle transfer – entire sections of muscle and tendon are taken from other parts of your body, and transferred and connected to nerves in the affected area.
How Fitzgerald Law Firm Can Help
Even though the term Erb’s palsy flies below the nation’s lexicon of birth injury conditions, we’re all too familiar with it. We know that if Erb’s palsy is not treated, the child is at serious risk of developing serious life-long consequences.
We’re very thankful for the job that medical professionals do, but when they fail to take the essential steps and time to prevent birth injuries like Erb’s palsy, that health care professional can and should be held liable. In one case, we successfully negotiated a settlement for just over $1.5 million to cover treatment and suffering of child with Erb’s palsy.
If your child has experienced Erb’s palsy, we’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your available options. Contact the Fitzgerald Law Firm for a free consultation by calling 800-323-9900.