Erb's Palsy Lawyer
Was Your Child Born with Erb's Palsy?
It is a frightening experience for parents when a child is born is born with Erb’s palsy. The baby’s arm hangs limply from the shoulder, with flexion (bending) caused by muscle weakness in the wrist and fingers. Erb’s palsy can occur when the newborn’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery, as stated by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). It can also be caused by a doctor who applies excessive traction on the baby’s head while the shoulder remains stuck during delivery, injuring the neck and brachial plexus nerves.
The good news is that most children born with Erb’s palsy are able to make a complete recovery - 80% to 96%, as reported by Paediatrics & Child Health, particularly when the condition begins to improve within the first two weeks after birth. However, surgery may be needed to improve the outcome for infants who have not yet begun to recover in three to five months.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a condition caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerves – the series of nerves travelling from the spinal cord to the arm. It occurs in one or two out of every 1,000 infant births, usually from traumatic stretching of the brachial plexus during birth. "Palsy" means paralysis or weakness. Erb’s palsy was named after renowned German neurologist Wilhelm Heinrich Erb, a pioneer in clinical neurology.
Infants with Erb’s palsy may suffer weakness, paralysis, and loss of feeling in the affected arm. In some cases, the child may be able to move the fingers, but not the shoulder. Most babies born with Erb’s palsy will need daily physical therapy to recover maximum function of the arm affected by the damaged nerves.
Erb’s Palsy Treatment
Although most babies recover eventually from Erb’s palsy, full recovery could take up to two years. Nerves heal slowly, and your child will need to be examined by a doctor frequently to ensure that the nerves are recovering.
The primary non-surgical treatment for Erb’s palsy is daily physical therapy. Parents or caregivers will need to perform physical therapy exercises with the baby’s arm to maintain the condition of the functioning muscles and to keep the joints limber. Range-of-motion physical therapy exercises begin when the child is approximately three weeks old and need to be done as often as possible.
Surgery on the nerves may be suggested after three to six months. The damaged nerve will be "spliced" with a donor nerve from the child’s body, or a donor nerve from another muscle will be transplanted. Nerve surgery is not generally helpful for older infants, and it does not typically restore full function of the arm.
Erb’s Palsy Birth Injury Information
If your child was born with Erb’s palsy and you believe the injury could have been prevented, it is in your best interests to speak with a birth injury lawyer like Laura Brown. For a free case consultation with no obligation, contact us at (214) 974-4121.
- AAOS: Erb's Palsy
- Paediatrics & Child Health: Erb's palsy -- Who is to blame and what will happen?