Erb’s palsy is a neurological illness that develops when the brachial plexus becomes injured or damaged in some way. The brachial plexus is a large bundle of nerves located near the neck and shoulders. It is responsible for controlling various movements and sensations in certain points in the chest, the shoulders, and in the arms and hands. Depending on where a brachial plexus injury occurs, a patient may suffer from mild symptoms such as tingling in the arm to severe symptoms such as an inability to use the arm or grasp objects using the fingers.
Some birth injuries do not show easily identifiable symptoms until a few weeks or even a few months after birth. For example, cerebral palsy is sometimes only identifiable between months three and six of a child’s life. However, with Erb’s palsy, the effects can sometimes be diagnosed as soon as a baby is delivered. If your child shows signs of a birth injury or exhibits unnatural movements or control of either of his or her arms, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529.
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Types, Causes, and Treatments
Technically, Erb’s palsy can develop at any time during a person’s life. All it takes is damage or trauma to the nerves in the brachial plexus to cause the arm weakness or paralysis associated with the condition. “Palsy” literally means weakness or paralysis, and the condition is named after the physician who discovered the illness. Sporting activities, child abuse, and vehicular accidents can all cause Erb’s palsy, but in adults, it sometimes lasts only for a few days or a few hours, especially of the nerves in the neck are simply pinched or twisted then released.
In infants and newborns, however, the likelihood of sustaining more serious forms of Erb’s palsy is higher. For example, if a baby that has become stuck in the mother needs to be forcefully removed to avoid the risks of hypoxia or strangulation, a doctor or nurse may be forced to push down on the head, neck, or shoulders of the baby. Doing this can lead to a rupture, which is a torn nerve, or an avulsion, which is when a nerve becomes completely detached from the spine. These conditions can be very painful and are usually only treatable with surgery.
Other types of nerve damage that can lead to Erb’s palsy include stretching of the nerves, called neuropraxia, and nerves that become pinched by scar tissue that forms on damaged nerves. This is called a neuroma and may also require surgery. If your child’s doctor diagnoses your child’s condition as a mild case, your child can usually make a full recovery using non-invasive treatments such as medication, the use of assistive devices such as crutches or splints, and regular therapy such as physical or occupational therapy at a care center or home.
While many babies who suffer from Erb’s palsy, especially those who suffer mild nerve damage recover from their injuries within about a year, the question that needs to be asked is why Erb’s palsy and the nerve damage that caused it occurred in the first place.
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Delivery Room Malpractice
You should speak with an experienced birth injury attorney to determine the role that negligence may have played in causing, contributing to, or worsening your child’s nerve damage. Doing this is important for two key reasons. Firstly, early diagnosis and immediate treatment for Erb’s palsy is absolutely crucial if your child is to make a complete recovery. Studies have shown that only when treatments are initiated within the first four months of life do babies who suffered a brachial plexus injury completely recover. Delays can cause nerve damage to become permanent.
Secondly, you may only have grounds to seek compensation and damages from an at-fault doctor, nurse, medical practitioner, or healthcare institution if it can be proven that injuries suffered by your child were probably caused by errors made by the delivery team. You must also prove that those errors were in some way preventable and that your family and your child suffered damages of various sorts as a result.
For example, the shoulders of a large fetus may become stuck behind the pelvis of the mother. This condition is called shoulder dystocia. The head of the baby may emerge while the rest of the baby’s body remains inside the birth canal or womb. Such a case may require the forceful extraction of the baby using delivery devices such as forceps or vacuum extractors. In the process, the child may sustain an injury and you may wish to sue for damages, but what if the medical team rebuts your claims by saying those procedures were medically justified?
This is where the duty of care comes into play. The duty of care provides guidelines on the level of care, experience, expertise, and competence doctors and medical caregivers must give their patients. The provision of health services below this established threshold is deemed unacceptable and doctors who cannot provide services at the established level are deemed incompetent. If injuries result from the actions of such a doctor or caregiver, he, she, or they may be held negligent and responsible for compensation for those injuries.
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How a Lawyer Will Help
Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529 for a free consultation and case evaluation. We can help you determine whether or not your child’s injuries were the result of preventable or non-preventable causes, and we can assist you in collecting the evidence needed to build a case.
We will also connect you with treatment centers that can help rehabilitate your child and we will file a malpractice lawsuit on your behalf after ensuring you meet all statutory and regulatory requirements for demanding compensation.