Erb’s palsy is a nerve injury that results from damage to the brachial plexus. Erb’s palsy is normally caused by a difficult labor or delivery. While the nerves are sometimes able to heal and the baby is able to regain full motion and feeling, the injury is permanent in around 20 percent of cases.
If a doctor or other health care provider’s actions caused Erb’s palsy, the injured child may have a legal right to compensation. The New York and New Jersey birth injury lawyers at Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., represent people who have been injured by medical mistakes and errors. To find out what your legal options are, contact the firm now by calling 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) or use our online form. Consultations are free. We collect fees only if you win your case.
With seven offices located throughout the New York and New Jersey metro area, the Ginarte law firm has an office near you with caring and experienced attorneys and support staff ready to help.
About Erb’s Palsy
At the top of the spinal cord near the neck, there is a network of nerves called the brachial plexus. The nerves in the brachial plexus relay signals between the brain and the shoulders, hands and arms. If the nerves are damaged, this can cause paralysis as well as limited feeling or sensation.
The brachial plexus can be damaged if the head is pulled on and the nerves are stretched too much, or if the nerves are severed as a result of excessive stretching. When the nerves are injured, the consequences vary depending on the severity of the injury.
If only the upper nerves are affected, this causes Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy can result in a baby being unable to move the shoulder and sometimes being unable to move the arm and hand. A baby with Erb’s palsy may experience weakness or partial paralysis and may have no feeling or only a tingling sensation in the arm.
Parents will generally notice that their child with Erb’s palsy is not able to lift his or her arm, even if the child is startled. A baby with Erb’s palsy will often have an arm that appears to hang limp and may have the forearm and wrist turned and bent inward. If the child’s injury was very severe and the nerve damage extensive, the child might also have visible droopiness in the eye on the same side of the body as the affected arm.
Treatment of Erb’s Palsy
Typically, Erb’s palsy will first be identified as a result of visible symptoms. A doctor may conduct a physical examination and may order an MRI, a neck X-ray or nerve conduction tests called EMGs or NVCs. The child may also be sent to a pediatric neurologist.
Once the condition has been diagnosed, a variety of potential treatment options may be tried. For example, a child may have the affected arm put into a sling to promote healing. The child may go through physical therapy or specific exercises designed to help the nerve heal, to keep the arm limber and to aid in the rehabilitation process.
Surgery may also be necessary and could include a nerve graft in which damaged parts of the brachial plexus are removed and the nerve network is rebuilt with nerve sections from another part of the body. A nerve transplant, in which a less-important nerve is taken from elsewhere in the body and transplanted into the brachial plexus, may be a potential treatment.
While treatments can allow a child with Erb’s palsy to slowly recover in some cases, Erb’s palsy is not always curable. Some children will be left with lingering problems with mobility, motion and sensation in the shoulder, arm or hand for the rest of their lives.
Responsibility for Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy usually does not just happen. Something must cause the brachial plexus injury that leads to the condition.
- This might include a stretching injury, or neurapraxia, that shocks the nerves but leaves them intact. Erb’s palsy due to neurapraxia usually heals within around three months.
- This also could include a neuroma, which is a type of stretching injury where damage to the nerve fibers can cause scar tissue that leads to discomfort and further mobility limitations. When a neuroma forms, the baby may experience partial but not total recovery.
- Finally, ruptures (torn nerves) and avulsion (the nerve being torn from the spinal cord) almost never heal on their own, and a nerve graft may be the only way for a child to regain partial mobility and sensation.
The stretching or rupture of the nerves that lead to Erb’s palsy can happen during labor and delivery. Between one and two infants out of every thousand will experience a rupture in the nerves, often because of medical mistake during a difficult delivery. For example, a brachial plexus injury leading to Erb’s palsy could occur:
- If a physician is too aggressive in using the forceps or the vacuum.
- If a physician pulls too hard on the baby’s neck or shoulder when taking the baby from the birth canal.
- If the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone (shoulder dystocia).
- If a medical professional assisting in labor fails to detect and respond to a breech baby.
- When labor is too prolonged and the nerves are put under too much pressure.
In these and other situations, it is important to assess whether the health care professional made a mistake. If a doctor or other care provider offers care that is substandard and below that which a reasonable professional would have offered, the injured child’s family may be able to pursue a claim for monetary compensation for all losses.
Taking Legal Action if Your Child Has Erb’s Palsy
The birth injury attorneys at Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., can help families who have been affected by birth injuries such as Erb’s palsy that are related to medical negligence. We have extensive experience evaluating and pursuing claims concerning children who have been injured by acts of medical malpractice and negligence. We work with pediatric and obstetric experts with a vast knowledge of neonatal and postnatal development in determining the causes of injuries and disabilities in infants and children.
If you are the parent of a son or daughter with Erb’s palsy from birth, please contact us for immediate attention at 1-888-GINARTE (1-888-446-2783) or use our online form for a free consultation.