If you believe your newborn or older infant is exhibiting symptoms of Erb’s palsy or another brachial plexus nerve injury, you should discuss your concerns with a trusted doctor or another medical care provider. The sooner you call a doctor to determine whether your child has Erb’s palsy and treatment begins, the better.
In general, most babies recover fully from this type of birth injury, but there is a risk of lifelong impairment that includes limited use of the affected arm.
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Signs and Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy Are Often Evident Immediately After Birth
In most cases, a pediatrician diagnoses Erb’s palsy and other types of brachial plexus injuries after hospital staff or parents notice tell-tale signs of weakness or paralysis in the affected arm. You should alert a trusted doctor if your newborn has signs or symptoms that include:
- Weakness or paralysis in one arm
- Loss of sensation in the upper arm
- A “waiter’s tip” posture, holding the arm extended close to the body with the wrist flexed
- Decreased grip in the hand of the affected arm
When the doctor examines your child to determine whether your child has Erb’s palsy, they will likely begin with a physical exam. They will look for signs of nerve damage that include numbness and full or partial paralysis of the arm. Then they will also check the baby’s Moro reflex. Babies with Erb’s palsy do not move their affected arm normally during this test.
The doctor may also request a number of tests to rule out damage to the collarbone or other bones or joints in the neck and shoulder. This could include:
- CT scan
Depending on the severity of the injury, or if the injury does not heal on its own over time, the doctor may want to run tests to determine if the nerve still functions at all. This could include an electromyogram (EMG) or nerve conduction study (NCS).
Most neonates with Erb’s palsy recover with conservative treatment. Splinting and daily physical therapy performed at home help maintain range of motion and build strength while the nerves heal. Only a small percentage of children with Erb’s palsy require surgery.
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Understand What Causes Erb’s Palsy and If Your Child Is At Risk
Erb’s palsy affects the network of nerves that connect the spinal cord with the shoulders, arms, forearms, hands, and fingers. When these nerves suffer damage, it can disrupt or stop sensation and muscle control in the affected parts of the arm. In Erb’s palsy, this includes the upper arm and sometimes the hand.
In newborns, brachial plexus injuries most commonly occur when:
- There is a long, difficult labor and delivery
- The baby is born breech, although they can also occur in head-first deliveries and even Caesarean (C-section) births
- The baby’s shoulders are too big to fit through the birth canal
- The baby is very large, or the mother is very petite
- The doctor pulls too forcefully on one arm or the infant’s shoulders during delivery
- Improper technique with forceps or a vacuum extraction device during delivery
Many cases of Erb’s palsy are preventable. Often, the doctor monitoring the mother’s pregnancy should have called for a C-section or used another technique to try to deliver the baby. There are protocols to follow when a baby’s shoulders become wedged in the birth canal to reduce the risk of this type of injury.
Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits
If there were risk factors for the birth injury that occurred before or during your infant’s delivery and you believe they may have Erb’s palsy, the first step is to get an accurate diagnosis and start treatment. Once that is out of the way, you should consider discussing your case with a birth injury lawyer in your state.
Doctors must provide an acceptable standard of care, following all protocols and using their training and knowledge to get the most favorable outcome for you and your child. If your baby suffered a preventable birth injury because they failed to provide you and your child with adequate care, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit.
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Talk to a Birth Injury Attorney Near You About Your Erb’s Palsy Case
If your infant has an Erb’s palsy diagnosis, the Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help connect you with an attorney in your state. Your lawyer can review your case for free and help you understand your legal rights. Call 1-800-222-9529 today.