The birth of your child is an event that should bring with it unbridled happiness. You trust that your newborn will be delivered into your awaiting arms free of complications or malady. Tragically, this otherwise joyous occasion can be marred by critical mistakes made by medical professionals that result in injuries such as Erb’s palsy, or brachial palsy.
At Kline & Specter, PC, we understand how distressing it can be when medical negligence leads to serious injury of a loved one. With more than 50 lawyers, five of whom are also doctors—including two OB/GYNs—we can help with birth injury cases. Please call our Erb’s palsy lawyers at 800-243-1100 to schedule a free consultation.
What is Erb’s palsy?
A condition caused by nerve damage around the shoulder, or brachial plexus, Erb’s palsy generally occurs during a difficult childbirth. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near the neck that connect the spinal cord to all the nerves of the arm. These nerves provide feeling and movement to the shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. Erb’s palsy—with subsets including Erb-Duchenned paralysis and Klumpke paralysis—is a paralysis or severe weakness of the arm that may require surgery to correct.
Statistics, causes and risks
Between one and two babies per thousand will have a brachial nerve injury. These nerves can be injured if the baby’s head and neck are drawn to the side as the shoulders pass through the birth canal. Excessive pulling on the shoulders during a difficult birth can also result in similar nerve damage. During a breech birth—when the baby is presenting abnormally with the feet being delivered first—the arms are usually raised and can be injured due to increased pressure.
Larger babies are especially at risk for shoulder dystocia—in which the head is delivered normally, but one shoulder becomes stuck under part of the mother’s pelvic bones—and can lead to nerve damage. Shoulder dystocia is a difficult situation to remedy that puts both mother and child at risk. Often, the doctor will manipulate the mother’s position and the baby’s position within the birth canal in an effort to free the baby’s shoulder. If gentle pressure and manipulation fail, surgery may be necessary.
Babies delivered to short women or those who have experienced gestational diabetes are at greater risk for shoulder dystocia. Pelvic abnormalities and prolonged labor also increase the risk. The use of forceps or a vacuum extractor can further increase the risk of injury.
Symptoms and long-term prognosis
Since Erb’s palsy is caused by an injury at birth, it can be almost immediately apparent, but the full extent of the injury may not be known for several months after birth. In the affected arm, babies suffering from Erb’s palsy may experience:
- numbness, weakness or even paralysis
- reduced spontaneous movement
- impaired circulatory, muscular, and nervous development
- a loss of sensory and motor function
- a lack of grip strength
- slowed development and reduced size
Although rare, some children with Erb’s palsy may suffer permanent functional loss in the affected arm, along with abnormal muscle contractions. These issues may cause the child in later years to suffer psychologically or be unable to participate in sports and other activities.
If you believe negligence by a doctor or medical staff may have led to your child suffering Erb’s palsy, contact an Erb’s palsy attorney at Kline & Specter today for a free evaluation of your case. Kline & Specter has successfully litigated and is currently handling multiple Erb’s palsy cases in the Philadelphia region, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.