What is Erb's Palsy?
Is Your Child Suffering from a Birth Injury?
Is your baby suffering from damaged nerves and a painful paralysis? Erb’s Palsy can cause your baby to suffer from lifelong harm. It can also cost you thousands of dollars in medical care just in the first year.
Do you think the doctors and the hospital where you gave birth are to blame? Find out more about Erb’s Palsy and whether our law firm can help you get the answers and the compensation that you deserve.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy also goes by the names Klumpke paralysis, Erb-Duchenned paralysis or brachial palsy. It is not the same as cerebral palsy, which is a type of brain injury.
The brachial plexus is the collection of nerves along the top of the neck where it meets the shoulder. “Erb’s point” is the name given to the spot where the nerves meet the top of the arm. These nerves control the feeling and movement of the shoulder, arm and hand.
If the brachial plexus is injured or damaged, it affects movement in that whole part of the body. That’s why babies who have this condition often look like their arm is paralyzed.
What are the Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy?
If your baby has Erb’s Palsy, you will probably start to notice the symptoms right away. Your child might be in pain or unable to move their arm, shoulder and fingers. In some cases, a child can move their fingers but not their arm or shoulder.
Erb’s Palsy usually affects one side of the body. The problem can range from mild to severe. In the more severe cases, the arm will seem completely paralyzed. The most common symptoms include:
- Holding the arm stiffly without being able to bend it.
- An arm that hangs limply and doesn’t move or swing with normal motion.
- Inability to move the hand or make a fist.
- Lack of normal reflexes.
- What Types of Nerve Damage Can Occur?
Erb’s Palsy is essentially a type of serious nerve damage. When nerves are stressed or stretched, they can be harmed in four different ways. The more severe the damage, the more your child will experience painful symptoms and require medical care. Nerve damage doesn’t heal on its own. Over time, if it’s severe enough, it can lead to permanent damage.
Neurapraxia: This is the most common type. It’s a simple stretching of the nerve endings. It can cause a slight stinging or shooting pain. Neurapraxia usually heals itself in a few months.
Neuroma: This is a more intense and longer-lasting stretch. It causes more weakness in the nerves. A neuroma doesn’t heal completely and usually leaves behind some scar tissue.
Rupture: A rupture is a tear in the nerve tissue. It won’t heal without medical intervention. Usually, a doctor will graft a piece of nerve from another part of the body onto the rupture.
Avulsion: When this happens, the nerve is completely pulled away from the spinal cord. It is very painful and always requires surgical intervention.
What Causes Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy happens during birth. If a mother is having a difficult, prolonged birth or the baby is coming out as breech, the doctor often has to intervene to help the baby get through the birth canal.
In some cases, the baby is twisted and turned as he or she is born. This is usually the result of shoulder dystocia or another birth condition. The twisting and pulling causes the baby’s nerves to be stretched or torn at the nerve mass near the shoulder.
What is Shoulder Dystocia?
This condition can be a frequent cause of Erb’s Palsy. It refers to a situation during birth when the baby is at an awkward angle as he or she is going through the birth canal.
In a severe case, the baby’s head gets stuck under the mother’s pelvic bones. This is dangerous for both baby and mother.
Shoulder dystocia can also occur during a birth that requires the doctor to use forceps or pull the baby in two different directions to get the baby through the birth canal.
When is Shoulder Dystocia Likely to Happen?
Shoulder dystocia affects only a handful out of every thousand births. It is most likely to happen if the following risk factors are present.
- A mother who had gestational diabetes in the past.
- An excessively long period of labor.
- Baby with a large birth weight.
- Use of forceps during the birth.
- During a breech birth or face-first birth.
- In women with a small pelvic cage.
- Excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
- Can Shoulder Dystocia Be Prevented?
Shoulder dystocia and Erb’s Palsy can be prevented if both the doctor and the mother take precautions before and during childbirth. Mothers should have their diabetes under control and should not gain excessive weight during their pregnancies.
If a doctor knows that a woman has a history of gestational diabetes and realizes that a birth is going to be breech or face-first, the doctor needs to prepare for the complications of that type of birth.
The same is true if it’s apparent that the baby is going to be very large, especially if the mother is small-framed. If regular birth appears too risky, the doctor and mother should agree to a C-section. If your doctor used forceps improperly or didn’t order a C-section, those mistakes could be considered negligence.
What is the Treatment for Erb’s Palsy?
If your baby has a mild stretch or a neuroma, the problem will heal on its own or with minor medical intervention.
In more serious ruptures and avulsions, you will see more serious consequences. Some children never develop the full ability to use their arm or hand. They may suffer from muscle spasms, nerve pain and other conditions the rest of their lives. This is rare, but it can happen if the brachial damage is severe enough or if it goes untreated.
The Most Common Treatments for Erb’s Palsy
Physical therapy: In mild to moderate cases of Erb’s Palsy, a child can be helped by routine and regular physical therapy. A physical therapist can develop a series of exercises that help strengthen the ligaments and allow the muscles to gently stretch. Physical therapy can help your baby regain function in their arm and hand if the damage is not too severe.
Electrical stimulation: Some doctors apply electrical stimulation to help the muscles grow. This may be done in conjunction with other treatments.
Massage: Your baby’s doctor can show you how to use gentle massage techniques on your baby at home. This is an excellent follow-up to physical therapy and other treatments. It allows your baby’s muscles and nerve endings to grow stronger and more flexible.
Surgery: If other treatments don’t work, or the nerve damage is severe, surgery is needed. Most doctors recommend waiting until the baby is at least three months old, to see if nerve damage heals on its own and if other treatments can help. If surgery is required, your baby will still need extensive follow-up care and ongoing therapy.
What Type of Ongoing Treatment Does My Child Need?
Most mild cases of Erb’s Palsy clear up within two or three months, especially if your baby is getting physical therapy and regular massages. If the injury was severe enough to require surgery, it could take a year or more to fully heal.
If your baby has suffered permanent paralysis, you may need lifelong care. This type of severe injury may also affect your child’s emotional health and put enormous stress on your family.
If you feel that these problems were caused by medical negligence, you may be able to get compensation for your child’s ongoing treatment as well as your own pain and suffering.
Can a Lawsuit Get You the Money You Need for Your Baby’s Care?
If your child is suffering permanent damage from a botched birth, you may be able to sue the doctor or the hospital that caused this mistake.
A lawsuit is not just a way to get money for your baby’s care, although that is important. It’s also a way to discover exactly what happened. It will allow you to know the truth and hold the doctor and the hospital accountable for what they did.
One of our attorneys can discuss your baby’s medical history with you. Our attorneys have extensive medical knowledge and can assess your situation fairly and honestly. If we think that you have a viable lawsuit, we will take your case at no cost to you. You’ll only pay us if we win your case.
Our Experience Matters
Our law firm has represented hundreds of families who have experienced medical negligence. We have taken on the doctors and hospitals and we’ve won time after time.
Our clients have been able to get the justice, the answers and the compensation that they deserved. Our dedication, knowledge and experience will go to work for you from the moment we take your case on.
The best way to find out if you can sue for medical negligence is to talk to us today. The consultation is free and you don’t pay us anything until we win.