Erb’s Palsy is an injury to the nerves of the upper arm that can occur as the result of a difficult birth. It is marked by paralysis of the arm to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves. The group of nerves that are damaged are called the brachial plexus. The difference between brachial plexus palsy and Erb’s palsy is that brachial plexus palsy typically affects only the upper arm, whereas Erb’s palsy affects both the upper and lower arm.
Dystocia is the term used to describe an abnormal or difficult childbirth or labor. Brachial plexus injury can occur if the infant’s head and neck are pulled toward the side, the same time as the shoulders pass through the birthing canal. Brachial plexus injury can be caused by the use of undue force while delivering the baby. It can also be caused before birth by abnormalities of the uterus or by unknown factors.
Each case of Erb’s palsy is different and the paralysis can either resolve on its own over a period of a few months, necessitate rehabilitative therapy, or require surgery depending on the severity.
The risk associated with Erb’s palsy and brachial palsy increases during a breech delivery, in cases where the newborn is larger in size than average (as the result of a pre-existing condition in the mother or prenatal obesity), or as a result of a difficulty that arises with the infant’s shoulder after the head has already emerged during birth.
A cesarean delivery is usually performed in order to avoid these types of complications associated with a difficult delivery.
In the case of Erb’s palsy and brachial palsy, the effect on the infant can be significant. The muscles from the shoulder through to the fingertips may in some cases atrophy causing the arm to appear smaller than the unaffected arm, as a result of Erb’s palsy or brachial palsy. Patients can also have impaired muscular, nervous and/or circulatory development, which can affect them throughout their life. The lack of muscular development leads to the arm being much weaker than the unaffected one, with many patients unable to lift the arm above shoulder height unaided, as well as leaving many with an elbow contracture.
The person’s circulatory system can also be affected. The nerve damage may leave the arm with little to no ability to regulate its temperature. Children especially need to be monitored during winter month as the temperature of the arm could drop below that of the rest of the body. The ability for the skin to heal itself is also affected and can result in skin infections if cuts are not sterilized as soon as possible. Children are especially affected since they often injure themselves in the course of their daily lives.
The side effects of Erb’s Palsy can continue to plague an individual throughout their life. There have been cases of patients who have lost complete sensory perception within the arm after procedures whereas they had full sensory perception before. The nerves which provide information from the arm to the area of the brain which controls that motor function can also be damaged as a result of the initial birth trauma.
Some babies recover on their own, while others may require specialist intervention, rehabilitation, pediatric neurosurgery, physio therapeutic resources and continued care.
Anyone who has been the victim of a birth trauma that has resulted in Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus palsy, as the result of medical negligence, is eligible to recover medical and hospital expenses to cover the care of the child. The first step is to have your case evaluated by an experienced law firm to find out your legal options.