There is a place in the neck called Erb’s point. This is where many of the nerves that control various parts of the arm are located. It is named after the doctor who first described their physiology. Damage to any of these nerves can cause issues with the parts of the body that they are responsible for controlling. The physical manifestation of those health issues is what is known as Erb’s palsy.
Erb’s palsy is a neurological disorder. That means it involves the nerves and muscles. It is quite common and has an incidence rate of almost five per 1,000 births. In percentage terms, this is quite low but in terms of birth illness incidence rates, it is very high. If your child suffered neck, shoulder, or nerve damage of any type, especially during a complicated or emergency delivery, then we can help. Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today. We provide services on a no-win, no-fee basis so you only pay if you win your claim. Call now at (800) 222-9529.
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Understanding Erb’s Palsy
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that are located in the neck. It comprises the upper and the lower brachial plexus. The upper brachial plexus controls the shoulder and the arms. Damage to the upper brachial plexus is what causes Erb’s palsy. The lower brachial plexus controls parts of the chest and torso.
We can take things a step further. The nerves in the brachial plexus merge in the neck but they come from the spine. We can identify and classify nerve damage based on where it emerges from the spine as well. Doing this also helps predict what kinds of symptoms a specific patient is likely to have. For example, damage to the nerves from spinal sections C5 and C6 affects the shoulders and the arm. Damage to the nerves from spinal section C7 affects the fingers.
With this in mind, it is clear that Erb’s palsy can affect different people in different ways, and no two cases are the same. One patient may exhibit one set of symptoms while another has a different set. Furthermore, depending on the extent of nerve damage that occurs, some patients may only experience mild issues while others may have more distinct or amplified problems.
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The Impact of Erb’s Palsy
Because it leads to physical health issues, Erb’s palsy can sometimes be diagnosed as soon as a baby is born. According to the latest research, as long as a child that has Erb’s palsy receives treatment within four weeks of birth, he or she enjoys significant chances of making a recovery. Delays in treatment can cause nerve damage–even if it is not serious–to become permanent.
Here are some of the symptoms that can be used to identify and diagnose Erb’s palsy.
- Limited fine-motor skills. Damage to the nerves that control the fingers can make it hard to perform fine movements such as grasping a spoon or a pencil or writing.
- Weakness in the arm. Inhibited muscle growth and coordination issues can render a person’s arm ineffective at performing basic movements or actions that require any amount of strength.
- Limited range of motion. The so-called “waiter’s tip” is an easy way to identify Erb’s palsy. It manifests with the arm bent toward the body at the elbow and is often excessively floppy.
- Bone contractures. If left untreated, poor muscle tone or stiff muscles can pull so strongly on the bones and joints of the individual that normal bone growth is affected and it can lead to the arm presenting as awkwardly bent or misshapen or even shorter than the unaffected arm.
- Pain and discomfort. Tingling or burning in the fingers or other parts of the arm are not uncommon with Erb’s palsy.
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Treating Erb’s Palsy
Before treating Erb’s palsy, your child’s doctor will first try to pinpoint which part of the brachial plexus was damaged and how badly. This will help outline a rehabilitation program designed to help your child overcome the issues or disabilities that specifically affect him or her. Doing this usually involves imaging studies such as MRIs and CT scans, blood tests, X-rays, electrical impulse tests, and nerve conduction tests.
Once the cause, type, and extent of nerve damage are determined, a recovery program can be started. The four treatments outlined below are commonly used to treat Erb’s palsy.
- Physical therapy that involves stretching and muscle-building exercises.
- Occupational therapy involves learning to perform everyday activities, including feeding and changing oneself, grasping objects, and more.
- Hydrotherapy uses a low gravity environment to reduce the stress on the body of the patient, giving it more freedom to move and stretch. This also helps reduce spasms.
- Surgery can be used to reattach torn nerves, transfer healthy nerves to a damaged target area, or even transplant muscle–usually taken from the inner thigh–to a target area that needs help recovering and re-growing nerve and muscle tissue.
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Why You Need Legal Guidance
Every case of Erb’s palsy is different. Your child may need long-term care or he or she may recover naturally with few if any symptoms of the injury. If you do end up needing treatment, it can be expensive, especially surgical interventions and procedures such as electro-impulse studies needed to ascertain the extent of nerve damage in a patient’s neck.
We are here to help you not only understand what you are up against but plan the financial future of your family. Even if you have insurance cover, you may not be able to pay for regular therapy, especially when it is needed multiple times a week. At the same time, you won’t want to delay initiating treatments because doing so can exacerbate an already dire situation.
Contact us for assistance with all of the above. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group focuses on helping families overcome the challenges posed by birth injuries and we have the experience and empathy needed to get you through this tough time. Get in touch today at (800) 222-9529.