Some birth injuries such as cerebral palsy and hypoxia are permanent. They involve irreversible damage to the brain, and the patient is left with lifelong disabilities. Erb’s palsy, however, involves damage to the nerves, not the brain. Several surgical procedures can help a patient who suffered nerve damage recover from their injuries. Mild cases of nerve damage can even heal on their own with the right treatments and therapy.
Although Erb’s palsy is not as serious as injuries that result from permanent brain damage and even though most patients have quite a positive outlook, if a baby suffers nerve damage and treatments are not administered within the first four weeks after birth, those injuries may become permanent. If your child suffered nerve damage, suffered a birth injury, underwent an emergency delivery or there was a birth complication when he or she was born, you should investigate the case and call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 for assistance.
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Causes of Erb’s Palsy
Disorders such as Erb’s palsy are usually categorized based on the symptoms that the patient exhibits. For example, if two patients suffer similar types of bodily injury but exhibit different symptoms, those injuries or disorders are sometimes categorized differently. In the case of Erb’s palsy, it is caused by damage to the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves near the neck and shoulders, is where the nerves that travel from the brain and spine to endpoints in the shoulder, arm, hands, and fingers converge.
The brachial plexus also controls movement and sensation in various parts of the chest and trunk, but those areas are controlled by the lower brachial plexus. Damage to the upper brachial plexus is what causes Erb’s palsy.
More specifically, damage to the nerves between spinal roots C5 and C6, which converge at what is known as Erb’s point, causes Erb’s palsy. It is characterized as weakness or paralysis in all or part of the arm. depending on which part of the brachial plexus is injured, the patient may have issues with the hands only, the shoulder only, with the fingers, or a combination of the above.
Anything that damages the brachial plexus can cause Erb’s palsy. This includes sporting injuries, slip and fall injuries, violence, and vehicle accidents. In adults, minor nerve pinching in the neck sometimes causes a burning or shooting sensation in the arm. That is not Erb’s palsy but it shows how the disorder can cause issues in the arm via damage to nerves in the neck.
When we speak of birth injuries, the issue is more serious than a shooting sensation in the arm that will probably disappear in a few hours or days. Birth injuries can be caused by many different factors and they can result in injuries that range from mild to severe.
Common causes of delivery room birth injuries that lead to an Erb’s palsy diagnosis include all of the following:
- Prolonged labor, especially 2nd stage labor that is more than one hour.
- Babies that are born feet-first or bottom-first.
- Doctor errors in using birth devices to assist in delivery.
- Administrative or clerical errors.
- Fetal diabetes – also known as gestational diabetes – can cause the fetus to grow very large, causing it to become stuck within the mother during delivery.
- Maternal health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or thyroid problems.
When any of these issues occur, the baby may suffer direct damage to the neck. Alternatively, these birth risks can lead to complications that compel the delivery team to resort to the use of force to extract the baby from the mother. In doing so, they may be forced to pull the baby’s arms or shoulder, push down on the neck, or pull the head to extricate and dislodge the baby from the birth canal or from against the mother’s pelvis.
These may seem like drastic measures to perform, but the delivery team will only resort to doing them if the alternatives are worse. If a baby runs the risk of developing hypoxia, suffocating, or sustaining brain damage because it has become stuck in the mother, the use of force is sometimes warranted.
However, even in such cases, you should speak with a birth injury lawyer to investigate the case and determine why a potential source of a birth complication was not identified beforehand, why the delivery team made mistakes, if any, when delivering the baby, and who was responsible for those errors. Speak with a member of the Birth Injury Lawyers Group to learn more about ascertaining the cause of your child’s birth injuries, determining who was at fault, and how you can go about filing for any compensation that you may be legally entitled to.
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Types of Nerve Damage
Four broad categories of nerve damage can result in Erb’s palsy. The first is called neuropraxia, which is when nerves become stretched. This can cause pain and inhibit the ability of the nerve to transmit signals, leading to sensory issues in the affected arm. The next type of injury is a neuroma, which is when a damaged nerve heals but leaves scar tissue in its place. Scar tissue on a nerve can pinch the nerve or the surrounding nerves, leading to sensory or motor control issues.
Avulsions occur when a nerve becomes detached from its spinal roots, and ruptures occur when a nerve ruptures or tears somewhere along with the nerve fiber. These are serious types of nerve damage and often require surgery.
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Filing and following up with a medical malpractice case can be challenging, especially if you must juggle responsibilities at work and home at the same time. You should speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer to help with your case. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can help you collect evidence to prove your case and we will represent you on the negotiating table and in court if needed at no upfront cost. Call now at (800) 222-9529 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced birth injury and medical malpractice attorney.