Written by Ronemus & Vilensky on October 5, 2022
Erb’s palsy occurs in nearly 12,000 newborns annually, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can also occur in adults.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a condition that causes arm weakness and loss of movement. A physical injury during the delivery of a newborn or a traumatic force downward on the upper arm and shoulder, damaging the brachial plexus, are the most common causes. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located near the neck that supply movement and sensation to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers.
Signs and Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
The symptoms of Erb’s palsy vary depending on the type of brachial plexus injury. Symptoms of Erb’s palsy in babies include:
- Loss of sensation in one armWeak or limited movement in the affected arm
- Numbness in the arm
- Paralysis of one arm, either partially or completely
How Does Erb’s Palsy Occur?
Erb’s palsy is as a result of medical negligence. During a difficult delivery, an infant’s neck is stretched to the side and a downward force is applied to the shoulder that results in a condition known as shoulder dystocia. The baby’s shoulders get stuck against the mother’s pelvis during delivery resulting in Erb’s palsy.
Risk Factors for Erb’s Palsy
The following risk factors may contribute to Erb’s palsy in infants:
- Breech Babies: Infants born feet-first have a slightly higher risk of Erb’s palsy because their arms may be raised and more easily injured by excess pressure.
- Gestational Diabetes: If blood sugar levels are not well controlled during pregnancy, babies may be born larger, making delivery more difficult.
- Improper Delivery/Use of Birthing Tools: During a difficult delivery, a baby may be yanked quickly and forcibly from the birth canal, causing neck and shoulder injuries.
- Large Infant/Small Maternal Size: If the infant is larger than normal or the mother is particularly petite, delivery may be more difficult.
- Prolonged Second State of Labor: A prolonged “pushing” stage may increase an infant’s risk of Erb’s palsy and other brachial plexus injuries.
Real-Life Case: A 32-year-old woman expressed concern to her obstetrician that she might give birth to a large baby based on her family history. After a lengthy labor, it became clear that the baby was stuck and that she could not be immediately delivered. A Cesarean section was not performed and eventually the baby was delivered naturally and suffered catastrophic injuries to her right brachial plexus. The injury was caused by the obstetrician who used excessive force on and around the baby’s head in order to try and deliver her. The obstetrician was sued in this Erb’s palsy case and was found liable for the child’s injury.
Diagnosing Erb’s Palsy
A physician will perform a physical examination to evaluate arm weakness in an infant to determine if they have Erb’s palsy. Advanced diagnostic procedures and technology are utilized to accurately diagnose the condition, inform treatment, and carefully monitor it. Diagnostic procedures may include the following:
Electromyogram (EMG): This test measures the electrical activity of a muscle in response to stimulation, as well as the nature and speed of electrical impulse conduction along a nerve. It can both confirm and assess the presence of nerve damage.
Imaging Studies: To check for damage to the bones and joints of the neck and shoulder, the doctor may order an X-ray, ultrasound, or other imaging test.
Nerve Conduction Studies: These tests assess the ability of individual nerves to transmit an electrical signal from the spinal cord to the muscles.
File an Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit
You can file a medical malpractice claim against the medical professionals who delivered your baby in order to recover medical expenses, including the costs of physical therapy, special equipment, and other treatment involved in Erb’s palsy cases and related to your child’s brachial plexus injury. Financial compensation may also include lost wages and emotional suffering. A birth injury attorney is experienced in handling medical malpractice cases and understands the medical malpractice state laws and the process involved and can help you if medical negligence was involved.
Work with Erb Palsy Lawyers
Ronemus & Vilensky are experienced personal injury lawyers who have handled birth injury cases including Erb’s palsy lawsuits, recovering millions of dollars for clients. Our partner law firm works with medical experts to evaluate each case and secure the highest medical malpractice settlement possible. We will review your medical records along with our medical professionals to determine what occurred during the delivery and whether the doctor failed to take the necessary steps to avoid injury to your infant.
Erb’s Palsy Settlement
Successful Erb’s palsy lawsuit settlements vary depending on the birth injury case, the financial burden on the part of the families affected and how severe the Erb’s palsy is — whether there is severe nerve damage to the child which eventually results in permanent paralysis and disability. Contact Ronemus & Vilensky for a free consultation to discuss your specific Erb’s palsy lawsuit and the legal process involved.