The brachial plexus forms the nerve root that all of the nerves of the arm stem from. These nerves are responsible for movement and sensation in the shoulder, arm, hands, and fingers. Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury and is named after Dr. Wilhelm Erb, who was one of the doctors who first identified the condition. It causes weakness and a loss of sensation in the affected arm.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Erb’s palsy affects up to 2.6 children out of every 1,000 live births. Most of these children can expect to recover both their movement as well as the feeling in their affected arm using daily physical therapy and exercise. Surgery is usually only needed for serious cases involving torn or detached nerves. Parents, alongside their doctors, can help their child recover from this illness.
Despite the positive prognosis of Erb’s palsy, we expect doctors and other medical professionals to treat our loved ones with competence, professionalism, and skill. Failing or neglecting to do so can lead to serious consequences. If your child suffered a birth injury or was diagnosed with any form of Erb’s palsy, a Brownsville Erb’s palsy lawyer may be able to help. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to learn how.
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Understanding Erb’s Palsy
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that is formed when the nerves that go to the arm, hands, and fingers pass from the spinal cord between the bones of the neck. These nerves all merge together near the side of the neck. They then branch out and form a network of nerves that go out to the arm, hand, and fingers.
In this system, the nerves that control the shoulder are higher in the neck than the nerves that control the hands and fingers. This is why nerve damage at different places in the neck can lead to vastly different types of weakness or paralysis even though all the nerves are part of the same nerve bundle.
Most brachial plexus birth injuries involve the upper nerves of the brachial plexus, and this is how Erb’s palsy occurs. It results in the child being unable to move his or her upper arm even though he or she may be able to move the hands or fingers. However, if both the upper as well as the lower nerves of the brachial plexus are stretched, twisted, pinched, or torn, this can lead to more serious issues and is referred to as a total or global brachial plexus birth injury.
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Types of Erb’s Palsy
The four broad categories of Erb’s palsy injuries include:
This involves stretching of the nerves of the brachial plexus. It can result in a shocking feeling but usually does not last long. It usually heals itself within three months or so. It can happen to adults as well as infants and children.
Stretching of the nerves can cause scar tissue to develop. This is part of the body’s natural response to trauma, but an unintended consequence of it is that this scar tissue may apply pressure on the rest of the healthy nerves under or around it. With a neuroma, some nerve recovery is usually possible, but surgery may be required.
A nerve becomes ruptured when it tears somewhere along the nerve fiber. Ruptures do not heal on their own. They can occur if the baby’s head or neck are inordinately stretched too far one way or another. They can also develop if, for example, a scalpel or other surgical implement accidentally nicks a nerve, causing it to tear.
Avulsions are the most serious type of nerve damage possible in infants. They occur when the nerve root is torn out from the spinal cord. It may be possible to repair an avulsion by using a section of a nerve from another part of the body and splicing or grafting it on or over the torn section to restore sensation to a specific part of the body. These procedures may not provide full use or sensation and require significant healing time.
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Coping with Erb’s Palsy
For some children, their affected arm may be somewhat shorter or smaller than their unaffected arm. This is a result of the nerve damage sustained by the child that causes the affected arm to grow more slowly than the unaffected arm. Children can adapt, however, so give them your support and encouragement, and, along with therapy, this may help him or her develop the self-esteem and skills needed to live independently and overcome the disabilities that Erb’s palsy may cause.
Your doctor may be able to help you connect to care, support, and related services. If you need help paying for your child’s care or want to hold the parties who caused your child’s injuries responsible, the Brownsville Erb’s palsy lawyer team with the Birth Injury Lawyer Group can help. Call us at (800) 222-9529 to discuss the various options at your disposal.
Compensation and Damages
According to Wheeless’ Textbook of Orthopaedics, between 80 and 90 percent of children with Erb’s palsy will recover normal or near-normal movement and sensation with the right medical interventions. However, any pain, damages, financial outlay, or other expenses you had to bear to treat your injured child should be compensated if those injuries were caused by the negligence or inexperience of your child’s delivery team.
Some of the damages you may be able to recover if negligence can be proven include:
- Medicine, diagnostic tests, doctor’s visits, and surgery costs
- Assistive devices, wheelchairs, body braces, or crutches
- Therapy and or specialist fees
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group focuses on medical malpractice cases that involve birth injuries. If your child suffers from weakness, a mild form of arm paralysis, or sustained serious nerve damage, we are here to help. We will help you understand the costs required for recovery, how to file a claim for malpractice, and how to prove malpractice.
A Brownsville Erb’s palsy lawyer is just a call away. Speak to a member of our team today by calling (800) 222-9529 for a free, no-obligation consultation.