Erb’s Palsy is a specific type of brachial plexus injury that affects the nerves that feed the shoulder and upper arm. A palsy is, by definition, a type of paralysis that generally includes weakness, the loss of sensation, and an inability to move the affected body part or parts. Erb’s palsy got its name from a doctor who discovered and described the injury, Wilhelm Erb.
In simple terms, Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that generally occurs during delivery or shortly after birth. It is often preventable. Outcomes can vary widely from complete recovery of movement and sensation to lasting paralysis.
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Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus Injuries
Erb’s palsy affects a particular section of the brachial plexus, specifically the nerves that connect to C5 and C6, and sometimes C7. These nerve injuries can include stretching, tearing, ripping from the spinal cord, and scarring. Any of these types of injuries can lead to weakness, paralysis, and loss of sensation in the child’s shoulder and bicep. Typically, Erb’s palsy only affects one side of the body.
Most children eventually regain movement and feeling in their shoulder and arm, although this may not be complete. They may struggle with weakness on that side for the rest of their lives.
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Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Erb’s Palsy
Many brachial plexus injuries are preventable. They occur in newborns during a difficult or prolonged labor, often because the baby is too large to be delivered vaginally without additional help. This is a condition the mother’s health care providers could have predicted and taken steps to address.
Alternatively, some cases of brachial plexus injuries, including Erb’s palsy, occur when the doctor or hospital staff member uses too much force or inappropriate force to tug or yank the baby. This may occur when the baby’s neck is stretched too far or if they pull the baby by its arm.
Babies with Erb’s palsy generally show symptoms immediately following birth. This may include:
- Weakness in the affected shoulder and bicep
- Loss of feeling in the affected arm
- No movement in the shoulder or upper arm
The standard treatment for Erb’s palsy is physical therapy exercises performed by the parent and started when the infant is around three weeks old. Babies with an Erb’s palsy diagnosis usually begin to improve on their own, but physical therapy helps to prevent muscle loss, stiffness, contractures, and shoulder dislocation during the healing process.
In some cases, babies with Erb’s palsy do not show improvement with conservative treatment and may require surgery to repair the nerve or graft in a new one.
As they age, many children who had Erb’s palsy as infants will struggle with weakness or partial paralysis in the affected shoulder and upper arm. Complications may also develop that require surgical treatment to regain function or prevent loss of function.
Erb’s Palsy May Support a Medical Malpractice Birth Injury Case
When a doctor or another medical care provider causes or fails to prevent a preventable injury, the victim may be able to pursue compensation and hold the doctor or hospital liable for their losses. Recoverable damages may include:
- Current and future medical care
- Therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering damages
When the injury is Erb’s palsy or another brachial plexus injury, the victim is generally an infant. The parents may act on the baby’s behalf to prove their case, file a claim, or take legal action. They may be able to recover a significant payout to cover their child’s current and future treatment and related care.
To learn if you can hold a doctor, hospital, or another medical care provider liable for your child’s Erb’s palsy based on the specific facts of your case, you should speak to a birth injury medical malpractice attorney in your state. Most malpractice attorneys offer free case reviews and handle these cases on a contingency fee basis.
Act quickly to talk to an attorney about your child’s Erb’s palsy. Each state has a statute of limitations that creates a deadline for filing a lawsuit in this type of case.
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Talk to a Birth Injury Attorney Near You About Your Child’s Erb’s Palsy
If your child underwent treatment or has lasting effects from Erb’s palsy or another brachial plexus birth injury, you may have grounds to take legal action and hold the doctor or the hospital liable. To learn more about the strength of your case, you need to discuss your rights and legal options with a birth injury attorney in your state.
Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to get help today. You can schedule a free consultation to learn more about the options ahead.