Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus nerve injury that affects the cervical roots at C5 and C6. In about half of all cases, there is also damage to C7. Damage at this top part of the brachial plexus causes loss of sensation, paralysis, and other problems affecting the deltoid, bicep, and brachialis muscles.
Damage to other nerves along the brachial plexus causes other types of birth palsies. Many brachial plexus nerve injuries are preventable.
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Understanding Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries
Nerves play a critical role in the body’s ability to transfer information about movement and sensation between the brain and the muscles. When nerves sustain damage and can no longer communicate, it can cause paralysis, loss of sensation, pain, and other symptoms.
The most common nerve damage that occurs in newborns is damage to the nerves of the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that runs between the spinal cord and the shoulder, arm, and hand. Birth injuries to the nerves of the brachial plexus can vary widely in severity and may include:
- Relatively minor injuries, known as neuropraxia, which allow for complete or almost-complete recovery without medical intervention
- Intermediate injuries sometimes called axonotmesis, which generally leads to a full or almost full recovery although this can take many months or even several years
- Severe injuries, known as neurotmesis, often involving a complete tear of the nerve or ripping of the nerve roots from the spinal cord, leaving the child with some level of permanent injury even after surgery
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Additional Nerve Injuries in Newborns with Erb’s Palsy
While all Erb’s palsy cases involve the nerve roots at C5 and C6, and many involve the root at C7, other nerves can also suffer damage. In about five percent of Erb’s palsy cases, there is also damage to the nerve roots at C3 and C4. This injury includes the phrenic nerve, the nerve that controls the diaphragm. With paralysis affecting half of the diaphragm, the child may experience some respiratory problems.
In rare cases, a brachial plexus injury leading to Erb’s palsy can also affect the stellate ganglion, which includes the sympathetic nerves of the face. This injury can lead to a condition known as Horner’s syndrome, including:
- Constriction of the pupil on the affected side of the face
- Drooping of the upper eyelid on the affected side of the face
- Impairment or absence of sweating on the affected side of the face
Related Brachial Plexus Injuries
In addition to Erb’s palsy, there are also other types of brachial plexus birth injuries that can cause a newborn to suffer the loss of motor control and sensation. The type of palsy they suffer depends on the affected nerves. This includes:
- Klumpke’s palsy, damage to the nerves at C8 and T1 roots
- Total plexus palsy, damage to the nerve from at least C5 to T1
Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries May Support a Medical Malpractice Action
Brachial plexus nerve damage in a newborn is often preventable. If your child has an Erb’s palsy diagnosis, you may have a birth injury medical malpractice case against the doctor or hospital. To learn more about your rights and how to pursue compensation on behalf of your child and your family, you may want to discuss your case with a birth injury lawyer who handles this type of case.
Your lawyer can explain your options and help you build your case. They will know how to navigate the medical malpractice claims process and the evidence necessary to prove a birth injury case.
Each state has its own time limits for taking legal action and holding a negligent doctor or hospital liable. For this reason, you should contact a lawyer for a complimentary consultation as soon as possible.
You may be eligible to recover damages that include:
- Past and future medical care costs related to your child’s birth injury
- Physical and occupational therapy expenses
- Any related ongoing care costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses related to your child’s injury or treatment
- Pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages