We Specialize in Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is caused at birth. It affects the baby’s arm on one side and is an injury to the brachial plexus in that shoulder. It will soon be evident because the baby will be unable to move that arm, and will often hold it twisted so that the back of the arm is towards the body.
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What is the Brachial Plexus?
It is a cluster of nerves which pass from the spinal cord through the shoulder and down the arm. Each nerve contains many thin nerve fibers and layers of insulating tissue.
- These are large spinal nerves (C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1) – in other words, four are cervical (neck) spinal nerves and one is a thoracic (chest) spinal nerve. They are among the largest nerves in the body
- Each exits from the spinal cord through an opening in the nearby vertebra and they travel parallel from the side of the neck down underneath the collarbone.
- They then branch out, each controlling a different aspect of arm, hand and finger movement.
- They provide sensation to the arm and hand as well as controlling movement.
- Questions About Erb’s Palsy
Cause of Brachial Plexus Injury
This nerve injury usually occurs in difficult births, such as breech presentations, extra large babies, and prolonged labor. Briefly, the brachial plexus nerves become stretched or bruised in the process of extracting the baby.
It may happen naturally, or may be the result of a physician or nurse pulls too hard on the baby. One shoulder may be caught against the mother’s pelvic bone and aggressive use of forceps may pull on the head but not free up the shoulder. Cerebral palsy may caused in this way also.
The term palsy means paralysis. The baby’s arm is paralyzed by this nerve injury to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the exact type and extent of injury.
Erb’s Palsy Symptoms
There are four types of nerve injury, but symptoms are the same for all – loss of feeling and some degree of paralysis. In increasing order of severity, the types of injury are:
- Shock to the nerves but not actually a tear — this will usually resolve on its own as the baby grows
- Scar tissue from the nerve injury which compresses the uninjured nerves – there will be some recovery but not total
- A stretch injury that breaks the nerve (rupture) – this will not recover on its own, but might respond to a graft where another of the baby’s nerves is spliced to repair the rupture
- A nerve torn away from the spinal cord (avulsion fracture) – this usually cannot be repaired although sometimes a nerve can be taken from the leg on the opposite side (if the baby is less than nine months old) to restore some function in the arm
Erb’s Palsy is usually diagnosed by the baby’s pediatrician. Physiotherapy can help the child regain movement but if recovery is not achieved within about 12 months, it will probably never happen. Muscles will atrophy and arthritis may develop.
Medical malpractice is our entire legal focus and we have a great deal of knowledge and many contacts among medical professionals. If you wonder whether your child’s Erb’s Palsy was caused by medical negligence, we will be glad to give you a preliminary case evaluation. You can also use the quick email form at the left side of this page.
In your free consultation we can discuss the facts as you give them to us and suggest possible next steps. Our office serves Salt Lake City, Price, and all surrounding areas.
For aggressive and experienced representation, contact a Utah birth injury lawyer for a free consultation.