Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that affects the network of nerves related to moving the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. This is an acquired birth injury that is often preventable.
Erb’s palsy affects a child at birth, causing weakness in the shoulder and upper arm. Possible complications include lasting impairment, stiffness, and muscle atrophy. Physical therapy may begin as early as three weeks to help ensure the baby regains the use of the arm quickly.
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Understanding Erb’s Palsy
The nerves of the brachial plexus supply feeling and movement from their location in the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. When there is an injury to any of these nerves, it can affect how a child uses their arm, hand, and fingers. Because Erb’s palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy) affects the nerves serving the shoulder and bicep, this is where the symptoms occur.
The symptoms of Erb’s palsy may include:
- Weakness in the shoulder and upper part of the affected arm
- Loss of feeling in the upper part of the affected arm
- Partial or total paralysis of the affected area of the arm
The severity of a brachial plexus injury depends greatly on the type of nerve injury suffered and how that injury heals. In general, there are four types of nerve injuries that can cause Erb’s palsy. Those nerve injuries include:
- Neurapraxia: a mild type of nerve injury where the nerve stretches but does not tear
- Rupture: where the nerve is torn into separate pieces
- Avulsion: where the nerve tears at the root and separates from the spinal cord
- Neuroma: where scar tissue forms during healing and causes additional pain or interference with nerve function
While each of these types of nerve injuries often receives the same conservative treatment, the severity of the injury may play a role in the child’s full recovery.
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Erb’s Palsy Treatment
At-home physical therapy and other conservative treatments usually help an infant recover feeling and movement in the affected arm during the first few months of life. A physical therapist will need to teach the parents or other caregivers Erb’s palsy exercises to use with the child, usually beginning around the third week. These exercises are key to maintaining flexibility, increasing muscle strength, and ensuring a full range of motion.
In some cases, conservative treatment may not work, and the child does not regain the use of their shoulder and/or bicep. If this happens to your child, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the nerve, such as nerve graft from another area of the body, or other surgical options.
If surgery is not a viable treatment, the doctor may prescribe physical and occupational therapy so the child can learn new ways to handle age-appropriate tasks without the use of their arm.
Long-Term Outcomes for Children Born with Erb’s Palsy
In general, most children born with Erb’s palsy have a pretty good long-term prognosis. Many heal entirely, but some continue to have problems with sensation and strength in the affected arm. Sometimes, additional complications occur. If there is scar tissue or a contracture that limits movement, your child may need surgery to repair the problem when they are older.
Erb Duchenne Palsy Is Often a Preventable Birth Injury
Erb Duchenne palsy, like other brachial plexus injuries, is often the result of medical negligence or carelessness on the part of the doctor delivering the infant. In some cases, it occurs because the doctor pulled or tugged on the baby’s arm during delivery. Erb Duchenne palsy can also occur because the baby is too large for a vaginal birth. Either of these situations may support a birth injury medical malpractice claim.
The best way to learn about your legal options if your child is diagnosed with Erb palsy is to discuss your case with an attorney who handles birth injury medical malpractice claims in your state. They can review the facts of your case and explain your options for pursuing financial compensation for your economic and noneconomic losses on behalf of your child.
Your attorney will help you build a case against the doctor, hospital, or medical care provider who caused your child’s nerve injuries. You may be able to recover compensation for damages that include:
- Medical care costs, including surgery and therapy expenses
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Pain and suffering damages
Be Aware of Your State’s Statute of Limitations on Birth Injury
There are time limits on how quickly you must act to pursue monetary compensation in a birth injury claim. These statutes vary by state. Your attorney can explain the birth injury statute of limitations and any laws that may allow you to toll the statute of limitations for a child victim in your state.
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Discuss Your Case with an Attorney Near You Today
If your child has Erb’s Palsy and requires surgery or experiences lasting effects, you should consider discussing your legal options with a birth injury attorney near you today. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 today to get started right away.