The incidence rate of Erb’s palsy is between two and three children per 1,000 live births. In absolute percentage terms this may seem to be very little, but across an entire population–and especially for the affected families–the impacts can be significant. From time spent away from work and social isolation to piling treatment costs, Erb’s palsy is a serious health issue that is sometimes preventable. Damage to the brachial plexus, which contains the nerves that control the arms, shoulders, hands, fingers, and even parts of the chest, is the source of Erb’s palsy.
Nerve damage of the type that causes the weakness or paralysis in the arm that is associated with Erb’s palsy can happen at any time, in a variety of settings. With babies, infants, and young children, however, damage to the neck and the nerves within it often occurs during childbirth. It can cause the child’s arms to present as very stiff or very floppy, and the child may be unable to move the hands or fingers in certain ways. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group for a free, no-obligation case evaluation at (800) 222-9529.
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Brachial plexus injuries, especially injuries to the upper brachial plexus, lead to Erb’s palsy. More specifically, if the nerves that run from the spine to various endpoints in the shoulder, arm, or hand become torn, stretched, pinched, or severed from the spine, varying degrees of Erb’s palsy will develop. Damage to the nerves in spine section C5 can cause issues with the shoulder and arm. Nerve damage in spine sections C6 or C7 can affect the fingers. Because of the intricacy of the network of nerves within the brachial plexus, different patients may exhibit different symptoms.
As for the causes of Erb’s palsy, any source of nerve damage can cause it. This includes congenital deformities in which the baby’s nerves do not fully develop, delivery room errors by medical staff, stretching or twisting of the baby’s neck or shoulder during birth, and even situations in which a baby cannot easily make its way into the world because the mother is of a small build, she does not dilate enough, or her baby is too large. Large fetal size is often the result of gestational diabetes.
The key differentiating factor between all of these potential causes of Erb’s palsy that your birth injury attorney will focus on is whether or not the source of your child’s injuries were the result of preventable or non-preventable injuries.
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Preventable vs. Non-Preventable Injuries
Consider three cases. One involves a birth injury that occurs as a result of a large baby that developed gestational diabetes. The other involves a baby that was forcefully removed from the mother because it became stuck behind this mother’s pelvis or was not in the correct position for a natural delivery. The third involves a baby that developed an infection that led to nerve damage that then led to weakness or a lack of sensation in the arm.
For the baby that becomes stuck inside the mother, prolonging labor and expecting the baby to make its way into the world by itself can lead to health issues that are more serious than nerve damage, such as brain cell damage or even the death of the baby. This is why the delivery team may opt to forcefully remove the baby via an emergency C-section or by using assistive devices.
These devices apply pressure on the baby to remove it from the mother. When this happens, because of where the brachial plexus is located, if the baby’s head or neck is pulled or pushed too far towards or from one side or the other, these nerves may become stretched or torn. Even if they heal, scar tissue on healed nerves can place pressure on the surrounding nerves, inhibiting the transfer of nerve impulses on those sections of the nerve, causing pain or discomfort.
For the cases involving a large baby and the baby with the infection, there may be a reason to believe that those risk factors were beyond the control of the doctor, and as such, they may be classified as non-preventable injuries. However, all three categories of nerve damage can actually be deemed preventable with the right evidence.
If it can be proven that the medical team should have identified the size of the large baby as a potential source of a birth complication but that they failed to do so, they may be held negligent. If the medical team did not screen for infections or made delivery errors that caused nerve damage of some sort to the other two babies, they may also be held liable for the injuries and the Erb’s palsy that results.
It is the responsibility of your attorney to gather the evidence needed to connect a specific instance of negligence or a specific medical error to specific injuries and damages so that you can accordingly seek compensation for all of your losses.
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The Birth Injury Lawyers Group is just a call away. Our team of experienced and passionate birth injury attorneys has years of experience helping the families of children injured during birth understand the illnesses their children face, connect with care and treatment centers and support groups that can help them, and file medical negligence lawsuits against the at-fault doctors or health teams that should have delivered a higher standard of care while treating their loved ones.
If your child was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy or has issues of any type using the hands or arms, call us at (800) 222-9529. Some birth injuries only become apparent weeks or months after a child is born, so you must investigate the case as soon as you suspect an illness or injury in your child. Research has shown that treatment delays beyond the first month of life can cause nerve damage sustained during birth or soon thereafter to become permanent, so time is of the essence. Contact us today to quickly initiate the investigation stage of your clam.