Erbs palsy is a birth injury resulting in damage to the nerves that surround the shoulder and upper arm known as the brachial plexus. Symptoms can include weakness or paralysis of the upper arm region of the body. The extent of the injury may necessitate a different name to be used for the injury. In a more severe the injury, if it causes weakness or paralysis down to the hand as well, it can be called Klumpke paralysis. Less severe manifestations of the injury may be known as brachial plexus injury.
Erbs palsy is an injury to the nerves of the brachial plexus, which can travel the entire length of the arm, and the injury might be a result of damage to this area of the body during delivery. In a medical malpractice situation damage to the brachial plexus can result from too much pressure applied to the area, as what might happen in a breech birth, a birth of a large baby, or from excessive pulling of the arms or shoulders during a difficult or prolonged birth. It can also result when the baby’s neck is excessively stretched to one side during delivery. Fortunately, many cases of damage to the brachial plexus area of the body during birth will heal within six to twelve months on its own. Erbs palsy is rare, with about one to two out of every thousand births resulting in some type of permanent damage to the baby. About ten percent of instances of an injured brachial plexus result in permanent injury. During the next few months after delivery, suspected cases of Erbs palsy will be readily apparent. In many cases, the condition can be detected immediately after birth. Parents should look out for a child who does not use both arms equally and for a weaker grip on the suspected arm.
Treatment for injury to the brachial plexus is possible but is usually not available until the child is three to six months old. The most effective treatment is physical therapy and it is recommended that parents begin treatment as soon as injury is suspected to avoid any stiffness in that area of the body. Nerve injuries can take years to heal, and it is possible that the injured side will always be weaker. Prolonged and more serious injuries may need surgery to correct. Parents who suspect Erbs palsy should take their children to be diagnosed by a pediatrician who can order x-rays and other imaging tests such as an NCS or an EMG to get an idea of any active nerves in that area of the body. For those infants permanently injured the injured arm will look noticeably smaller than the healthy arm.
Parents who suspect negligence during their child’s birth should see an attorney immediately for counsel. An attorney can order a medical review of the files to ensure that the proper procedures were followed. If negligence is found to be a cause of the injury, your child may be entitled to compensation.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you or a loved one suspect an Erbs palsy injury, please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.