Erb’s palsy affects roughly three children out of every 1,000. Serious cases have an incidence rate between one and five per 10,000 children. The condition usually manifests as pain, tingling, or varying degrees of paralysis in the arm. It is caused by damage to the nerves in the brachial plexus, which is where many of the nerves that control movement and sensation in the chest, shoulder, and arms converge. Damage to the upper brachial plexus leads to Erb’s palsy while damage to the lower brachial plexus leads to sensory issues in other parts of the body.
If left untreated, nerve damage sustained at birth can become permanent. If your child was delivered in an emergency or complicated birth, contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group immediately at (800) 222-9529. We will help you get your child tested and diagnosed and will connect you with the care centers that can provide you with the rehabilitation your child needs. We will also review the circumstances surrounding your child’s birth. If negligence contributed to or caused your child’s disorder, we will help you file a malpractice suit for damages.
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Nerve Damage and Erb’s Palsy
Disorders such as Erb’s palsy are classified based on the symptoms and health issues a patient experiences. The brachial plexus contains the nerves that transmit signals between the brain and spine and endpoints in the shoulders, chest, arms, and hands. The nerves that control the shoulder, arms, and hands lie in the upper brachial plexus, and they converge at what is known as Erb’s point. Pinching, stretching, tearing, or detachment of these nerves from the spine can cause issues in the arm such as muscle loss, limited sensation, or hypersensitivity.
As such, Erb’s palsy can be caused in many ways, including vehicle accidents, sports activities, falls, and birth injuries. With birth injuries, the situation is somewhat more serious, since mild nerve damage in adults usually heals within days or weeks. In children, however, nerve damage can become permanent if it is not treated within the first month of the child’s life.
This is especially true for nerve damage sustained during a birth complication or an emergency delivery. Certain risk factors can lead to complications in delivery. These include large fetal size, detachment of the placenta, issues with the umbilical cord, doctor inexperience, breech births, and high maternal blood pressure or maternal infections. Some of these risk factors can cause a baby to become stuck in the birth canal. This may require the delivery team to forcefully remove the baby from the mother using assistive devices.
Alternatively, the delivery team may push down on the head or neck of the baby or twist the baby’s arms in an attempt to dislodge it from the mother. These measures may sound drastic, but they may be necessary if there are signs of fetal distress or if there is reason to believe that the baby may die or suffer brain cell death if it stays inside the mother for too long. If the nerves in the baby’s neck are damaged in any way during these procedures, Erb’s palsy can develop, and the severity of the condition will depend on the extent of nerve damage sustained.
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Negligence and Birth Injuries
When and how does negligence come into play in birth injury cases? How can we tell the difference between preventable and unpreventable injuries?
It all comes down to what the doctor did and what he or she could have or should have done. If factors such as placental detachment that could not be identified or tested before delivery caused a birth complication, this can be categorized as a non-preventable injury. The same can be said of genetic mutations, preterm births, and multiple births in which natural or congenital issues cause complications or issues that result in some type of injury.
Other issues, however, are identifiable, such as the position of the baby in the womb, the size of the baby, and whether or not the mother has high blood pressure or an infection. These risk factors can be tested and prepared for in advance. If your child’s doctor failed to do so or did so incorrectly and did not satisfactorily prepare for a predictable birth complication as a result, that is when he, she, or his or her team may be held accountable as negligent for your child’s injuries.
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Treatments and Prognosis
The long-term outlook of Erb’s palsy is positive, and most patients make a complete recovery between six months and one year after birth. Serious cases involving torn or detached nerves will likely require neonatal surgery to transfer or graft nerves from a healthy part of the body to the injured target area.
Mild cases of Erb’s palsy usually heal with regular therapy and exercise which can be performed at home, at a care facility, or both, based on your doctor’s instructions. Keep in mind, however, that these treatments need to be initiated as soon as Erb’s palsy is identified, and they should continue until the patient has recovered from his or her nerve damage. Only when there is no functional recovery from noninvasive rehabilitative interventions will a doctor recommend going for surgery.
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Costs and Compensation
Depending on the role of negligence in causing your child nerve damage and Erb’s palsy, you may or may not have grounds for filing a malpractice claim. Your lawyer will guide you concerning the categories of damages that you can seek compensation for if delivery room negligence can be proven.
Common cost categories that may be compensable in your child’s Erb’s palsy case include:
- Treatment and care costs
- The costs of medications and surgery
- Lost income and caretaker costs
- Pain and suffering damages as applicable
Birth Injury Legal Guidance
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help you diagnose your child’s condition and identify when and how nerve damage leading to Erb’s palsy was sustained. We will also determine whether or not you have grounds for seeking compensation from any at-fault parties responsible for your child’s injuries. Based on our findings, we will file a claim on your behalf after calculating the total losses you’ve suffered from your child’s condition.
Call us today at (800) 222-9529 for a free case evaluation and to learn more about your rights, responsibilities, and your legal options for compensation.