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Erb's Palsy

Erb's palsy is a type of brachial plexus palsy. Brachial plexus palsy occurs when there is nerve damage to a group of nerves that run from the spinal cord and travel between the shoulder and the neck, flowing into the arm. This collection of nerves is known as brachial plexus or "Erb's Point." The brachial plexus nerves control the movement and sensory feelings of the arm, hand, and fingers. Specifically, Erb's palsy is a condition where there is damage to the upper group of the arm's nerves.

Cause of Erb's Palsy

One of the main causes of Erb's palsy is shoulder dystocia, which involves a difficult birth where the newborn's shoulder gets caught behind the mother's pubic bone. Other causes might be delivering a large baby or a baby that is in breech.

Read our detailed discussion regarding shoulder dystocia

When the delivery becomes difficult, the medical practitioner might use excessive force pulling on the infant's head, stretching and possibly tearing the brachial plexus nerves. This stretching or tearing of the nerves can result in varying degrees of reduced motor function to the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Symptoms of Erb's Palsy

Depending on the degree of nerve damage to the brachial plexus nerves, ranging from bruising to tearing of the nerves, there can be a partial or complete paralysis of the arm. Because the symptoms can vary, the following includes a list of possible symptoms of Erb's Palsy:

  • Avulsion occurs when the nerve tears from the spinal cord, and muscle function in the child's arm is severely reduced.
  • Lack of muscular development in the arm, resulting in a weak arm and an inability to raise the arm. The child might be unable to extend the elbow as well.
  • Lack of sensory perception from the shoulder to the elbow.
  • The injured arm may appear smaller than the unaffected arm.

Although stretched brachial plexus nerves may heal over time during a child's early years, sometimes these nerves do not heal and medical treatment may be necessary.

Preventing Erb's Palsy

The physician can help prevent Erb's palsy by properly monitoring the mother and the fetus. There are certain risk factors that make the chance of the occurrence of Erb's palsy more likely:

  • Mothers who have pelvises that are smaller than average or unusually shaped.
  • Mothers who have given birth to children where shoulder dystocia occurred, regardless of whether or not brachial plexus palsy resulted.
  • Prior delivery of large babies, regardless of whether complications resulted.
  • Gestational diabetes.
  • Prolonged or stalled labor.
  • Babies in breeched positions.
  • Babies who are larger than average.

Having a medical practitioner who is aware of these risk factors can reduce the likelihood of Erb's palsy. Additionally, there are maneuvers to deliver the infant without injuring the baby during delivery, and a medical practitioner who is aware of these different methods can help prevent Erb's palsy.

Erb's palsy is a serious condition that can severely impact the lives of both the child and the parents. To get the just compensation you deserve, if you or someone you know has given birth to a child who is injured due to Erb's palsy, speak to experienced attorneys who are skilled at handling these cases. Contact Anderson Law Offices, LLC for a free initial consultation.

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