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A potential birth injury resulting from a difficult procedure or possible medical malpractice, Erb’s Palsy pertains to the effects of a brachial plexus injury.

The group of affected nerves goes from the neck and shoulder to upper extremities and controls muscles in the hands, arms, and fingers. A brachial plexus injury frequently occurs with shoulder dystocia, or when a child’s shoulder becomes stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone during childbirth. One to two babies per every 1,000 suffer a brachial plexus injury, with 10 percent of this figure requiring treatment of some kind.

Signs of Erb’s Palsy

Unlike other birth injuries, Erb’s palsy becomes apparent quickly. Typically, a baby’s arm appears motionless at its side, with a motionless, extended elbow. Symptoms, even if the condition is mild, include loss of muscle control and feeling in arm and hand, limited ability to move muscles, full paralysis of hand and fingers, facial paralysis, inability to sit upright without assistance, and no ability to crawl without assistance from a therapeutic device.

Brachial plexus injuries cover a range of types:

Avulsion — Nerves are torn from spine.

Rupture — A nerve gets torn, but not from where it attaches to the spine.

Neuroma — A torn nerve tries to heal but forms scar tissue around the damaged area. The scar tissue ends up putting pressure on the nerve praxis. This type of injury can improve over a few months’ time.

Neuropraxia — The most mild brachial plexus injury is localized to where the nerve damage occurs. Recovery takes four to six weeks.

The condition is able to heal in six to 24 months, but for 10 percent of all cases, Erb’s palsy becomes a lifelong condition of limited or no use of the arm, no feeling, a limp, or atrophy. Physical therapy or surgery may become a necessity to correct or improve the condition.

Did the Injury Result from Malpractice?

Parents-to-be place their trust in a doctor and other medical professionals to meet an acceptable standard of care, both before a child is born and in the delivery room. Because Erb’s palsy is a risk, doctors must identify factors resulting in complications and then take appropriate measures for the mother’s and baby’s safety: high birth weight, maternal diabetes, an overweight or short mother, the mother’s contracted or flat pelvis, a pregnancy that lasts past 40 weeks, or drawn out second-stage labor.

Although officially determining whether an infant’s Erb’s palsy condition results from medical malpractice or simply from childbirth requires extensive review of medical records, certain instances show staff did not provide full and appropriate care:

  • Before childbirth, the doctor did not properly measure the baby’s weight or plan for a cesarean section.
  • During childbirth, the doctor did not prevent the infant’s shoulder from getting caught, used excessive force in delivery, and did not act appropriately when complications arose.

A lawyer reviewing an Erb’s palsy case will review medical records of prenatal care and childbirth to determine if the injury could have been preventable.

If you have a child whose Erb’s palsy did not improve and, instead, requires therapy or surgery, filing a lawsuit may result in compensation to cover current and future medical bills and caretaking needs. If you have a medical malpractice-related Erb’s palsy claim in Connecticut, bring it to the attention of Trantolo & Trantolo.

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