Erb’s palsy, also known as Erb–Duchenne palsy, is the paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves, specifically the severing of the upper trunk C5–C6 nerves. These form part of the brachial plexus, comprising the ventral rami of spinal nerves C5–C8 and thoracic nerve T1. These injuries most commonly occur due to shoulder dystocia during a difficult birth. Depending on the nature of the damage, the paralysis can either resolve on its own over a period of months, necessitate rehabilitative therapy, or require surgery. It can also be irreparable damage that require a lifetime of therapies.
Birth injuries occur during the most vulnerable time in your life, when you are trusting medical professionals and physicians with your and your baby’s health and safety. Medical negligence or malpractice happens when healthcare professionals deviate from generally accepted methods of practice. It can be a deliberate act or an omission, or even a failure to diagnose an issue.
If you or your child was injured during the labor and delivery process, you may be able to bring an Erb’s palsy lawsuit. You must speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer to determine your claim. At the Law Offices of Ronemus & Vilensky, we will fight for you to get justice and compensation to cover future medical bills and care.
Erb’s palsy is just one of many possible birth injuries that can occur due to medical negligence. Other examples of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Premature birth injuries/underdeveloped fetus
- Oxygen deficiency
- Maternal death
- Brain injury
- Developmental delays
- Loss of vision
- Hearing loss
What causes Erb’s palsy?
- The most common cause of Erb’s palsy is dystocia, which is when the baby gets stuck in the birth canal and its shoulder is lodged against the mother’s pelvic bone.
- Shoulder dystocia frequently happens when a child is large or has a heavier than average birth weight. This can occur when a mother has maternal diabetes, is overweight or is overdue. It can also occur when a mother is quite small or has an unusually shaped pelvis.
- It can also be caused by excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head-first delivery.
- Erb’s palsy can also result from pressure on raised arms during a breech (feet-first) delivery.
You may be wondering what treatments are available for babies who are affected by Erb’s palsy. Some babies recover completely on their own while others do require specialist intervention. Lesions alone may heal with time with full function returning on its own. If the baby has an avulsion fracture, which is a bone injured in a place where ligaments and/or tendons are attached to it and the ligament tears away, taking a piece of bone with it. In these cases, neonatal surgery is often required.
Physiotherapeutic care is generally needed to regain muscle usage. When under one year old, the range of motion is fully recovered in many kids. If the child has not yet healed by turning one, they rarely gain full function of their arm and are more likely to develop arthritis later in life. The three most common treatments for Erb’s Palsy are: Nerve transfers, Subscapularis releases and Latissimus Dorsi Tendon Transfers.
What are those most common treatments?
- Nerve transfers are usually performed on babies under the age of 9 months since the rapid development of younger babies increases the effectiveness of the procedure. When the procedure is done on older babies, more harm than good is done and can result in nerve damage in the area where the nerves were taken. Scarring can vary from faint scars along the lines of the neck to full “T” shapes across the shoulder depending on the training of the surgeon and the nature of the transplant.
- The nerves transferred are usually from the opposite arm.
- Subscapularis releases are not time-limited. It involves cutting a “Z” shape into the subscapularis muscle to provide stretch within the arm, and it can be carried out at almost any age and even done repeatedly on the same arm. The main disadvantage to this procedure is that it will compromise the integrity of the muscle.
- Latissimus Dorsi Tendon Transfers involve cutting the Latissimus Dorsi in half horizontally in order to ‘pull’ part of the muscle around and attach it to the outside of the biceps. This procedure provides external rotation with varying degrees of success. A side effect may be increased sensitivity where the muscle will now lie, since the Latissimus Dorsi has roughly twice the number of nerve endings per square inch of other muscles.
Erb’s palsy almost always occurs during the birth process and is considered preventable due to medical negligence includes the failure of medical staff to recognize the potential risk of dystocia and the failure to resolve it. It also involves the doctor or nurse pulling on the baby’s head to fully birth them and the improper use of tools like forceps or vacuum extraction.
This affliction affects approximately 2 out of every 100 babies born in the United States and is one of the most common forms of birth injury, next to cerebral palsy.
A qualified Erb’s palsy attorney will be able to help you determine if you and your child were put at undue risk.