Erb’s Palsy, also known as Shoulder Dystocia or Brachial Plexus is a condition that results from nerve injury to the upper plexus involving the nerves that control muscles in the shoulder, arms, or hand. The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerves that run from the spine through the shoulder and to the tips of the fingers.
Erb’s Palsy often happens during childbirth, sometimes as the result of a mistake during delivery. The use of forceps by an inexperienced or improperly trained physician can cause injury to this delicate part of the shoulder. Injury can also result from other negligent actions that cause the shoulder of the baby to get caught and stretched behind the pubic symphysis bone (part of the pelvic bone). If the shoulder is caught, this can cause the brachial plexus to be compressed, stretched or torn. Many babies with Erb’s Palsy are larger than average at birth, which increases the risk of shoulder impingement and injury.
Treatment for newborns afflicted with Erb’s Palsy usually involves physical and/or occupational therapy, including surgery for serious cases. The severity of the injury determines the course and type of treatment needed. While most cases of Erb’s palsy can be resolved within a year or two, long-term effects of a brachial plexus injury can include lingering pain, a limited ability to move a hand and/or arm or an inability to lift the arm above shoulder level. If a newborn receives no treatment or is improperly treated, the condition can carry over into adulthood, causing chronic pain and limiting the use of the arm that was affected.
Negligent behavior by a physician or other health care provider that can result in injury to the brachial plexus can include failing to properly estimate the size of the baby, especially whether the baby’s shoulders are too wide or large to fit through the birth canal, or applying extreme lateral traction to the baby’s neck during birth.
If you suspect that your newborn has Erb’s Palsy, it is important to seek medical help immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment, especially if the birth involved forceps or the baby is above-average in size.
It is important to contact us to ensure that you receive fair compensation for the ensuing medical costs and possible emotional hardship your family may endure as the result of medical negligence.