When a child is born, it is the responsibility of the doctor to ensure the baby’s safe arrival, and then it falls to the nurse and other caretakers to provide the baby with the proper care. Unfortunately, if either of these parties makes a mistake, a bad judgment call, or acts negligently, the newborn could suffer from Erb’s Palsy.
Erb’s Palsy is a condition that affects muscle control in the neck and arm, sometimes resulting in lack of mobility, nerve issues, and paralysis. In many cases, the injuries that cause Erb’s Palsy are the result of medical negligence or rough handling during the baby’s first moments. If your child has Erb’s Palsy and was injured during or shortly after birth, make sure you know your rights.
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How Does Erb’s Palsy Develop?
Childbirth can be extremely difficult on both the mother and the baby, but trained and educated healthcare professionals are tasked with the responsibility to provide quality care to each and every patient they see. Unfortunately, if a doctor, nurse, or other medical practitioner makes a mistake, the baby could suffer serious injuries.
Erb’s Palsy develops when a child suffers an injury to the nerves between the shoulder and neck, also called the brachial plexus nerves. These types of injuries can occur in several different ways, but often are the result of a difficult birth. In a natural birth, the baby must pass through the mother’s birth canal. If the baby is in a poor position, or if the baby is too large, he or she may pass through the canal at a bad angle, injuring the brachial plexus nerves. However, the doctor delivering the baby may cause the injury or make it worse if he or she fails to handle the situation correctly.
Potential causes of Erb’s Palsy include:
- The doctor injures the baby while using forceps, a vacuum, or other tools to assist in the birth.
- The doctor fails to perform a C-section in lieu of natural birth.
- The doctor pulls on the baby’s shoulders during birth.
- The baby is injured during a breech birth.
Living with Erb’s Palsy
A child with Erb’s Palsy might not show symptoms immediately. Newborns do not move too much in the first few weeks, so the damage to a baby’s neck and shoulder nerves might go unnoticed for some time. Eventually, a baby with Erb’s Palsy could have difficulty gripping toys, holding a bottle, crawling, and participating in other natural milestones. Although roughly 70-80% of all Erb’s Palsy cases clear up within a year of receiving proper treatment, there are some children left with serious muscle abnormalities or loss of function in the arm, hands, or fingers.
Parents can look for the following symptoms if they think their child may have Erb’s Palsy:
- Paralysis of the arm, hand, or fingers
- Atrophy of the arm and shoulder muscles
- Difficulty moving the fingers, hand, arm, or shoulder
- Lack of Moro reflex in the baby’s arm
- Poor grip on the affected side
- Impaired circulatory and nervous development in the arm and shoulder
- Numbness in the fingers, hand, arm, or shoulder
Erb’s Palsy can be treated by nerve specialists or physical therapists, depending on the severity of the injury. For some children with Erb’s Palsy, surgery can help repair turn nerves, damaged muscle, as well as other subsequent issues. However, most cases of Erb’s Palsy can be resolved through milder treatments, such as physical therapy, massage therapy, electrical stimulation to the affected nerves, and specific types of injections.
In any case, the treatment for Erb’s Palsy can be a long, ongoing journey, which can be both time-consuming and stressful, not to mention costly. If your child developed Erb’s Palsy as the result of a birth injury, our firm is prepared to help you seek justice and compensation on your child’s behalf.
Do I Have a Case?
No parent wants to see their baby injured, especially when they are in their earliest days and seem so fragile and delicate. Newborns should always be handled with extreme care, especially by doctors and medical practitioners who play a role in the child’s birth. If a doctor handles a child too roughly, uses birth implements incorrectly, or fails to perform a necessary caesarian section, the child could suffer serious brachial plexus injuries as a result.