“Palsy” is a medical term for types of paralysis or partial paralysis that involve different parts of the body and may have different causes. Cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy have some things in common. First, they all involve “palsy,” or paralysis of some type. Second, they can all be the result of birth injuries.
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. Cerebral palsy is a physical disability in which a child has difficulty or is unable to control the movement and posture of his body due to “palsy,” resulting in lack of muscle control.
Cerebral palsy can be the result of damage to the brain caused by lack of oxygen. This lack of oxygen can occur during pregnancy while the baby is still in the womb or during labor and delivery.
There are different conditions that can cause the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby to be slowed or stopped which can result in a brain injury and, therefore, cerebral palsy. Sometimes there are problems with the baby’s umbilical cord—the cord becomes kinked or compressed or gets wrapped about the baby’s neck (“nuchal cord”). The umbilical cord can also “prolapse,” or slip out of the mother’s body ahead of the baby. The baby can push on the umbilical cord, causing the flow of blood and oxygen to be decreased. Umbilical cord compression or prolapse can be an emergency requiring doctors and nurses to act very quickly. This is why it is vital that doctors, midwives, and nurses closely monitor the baby throughout the pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Other conditions, such as uterine rupture and placental abruption, can also disrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby and can be emergencies.
Lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain can also occur due to the birthing process itself. Sometimes the contractions of the mother’s uterus are too close together and the baby does not have enough time between contractions to recover and replenish his oxygen reserve.
If the baby is large and gets stuck in the birth canal, this can cause the baby to suffer from lack of oxygen. It is the responsibility of the doctor and the nurses to monitor the mother and the baby carefully and take steps to deliver the baby quickly if the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen. The doctor may need to perform a Cesarean section (C-section) if there are complications during labor and delivery.
Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy
Klumpke’s palsy and Erb’s palsy are both types of brachial plexus palsy. The brachial plexus is a cluster of five nerves that control the muscles of the arm. This network of nerves travels from the spinal cord to the shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers. These nerves come out of the spinal cord in the baby’s neck at the cervical vertebrae, “C5, C6, C7 and C8” and in the baby’s back at the thoracic vertebrae “T1.” Each nerve group controls the movement and sensation of specific areas of the body, from fingers to shoulder.
Brachial plexus injuries are caused by damage to these nerves. If the lower two of these nerves are damaged, it causes palsy in the lower part of the arm, from the elbow down to the hand. This is called Klumke’s palsy. If the other three nerves of the brachial plexus are damaged, the upper arm is affected. This is called Erb’s palsy.
Both Klumke’s palsy and Erb’s palsy can be caused by damage to the brachial plexus during a shoulder dystocia—when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. If the doctor or midwife pulls too hard on the baby’s head or body during delivery, this force can stretch or tear these nerves, resulting in brachial plexus injury.
Many birth injuries could have been prevented with proper medical care. If your child has suffered a birth injury, he or she may be facing a lifetime of disability. As a parent, you want your child to get the medical care, rehabilitation, and assistive devices needed to overcome as much of the disability as possible and to help your child live a fulfilling life. This care is expensive. If your child’s birth injury was the result of medical negligence, you may have grounds to file a claim against the responsible party and recover the costs of the care that your child will need. To find out more about your child’s legal rights, contact Birth Injury Safety. Call (214) 974-4121 for a free consultation.