Understanding the Causes of Erb’s Palsy
During the process of giving birth, there are a lot of complications that can potentially arise and if they aren’t handled correctly, the child could be born with a birth injury. One of the most common types of birth injuries is Erb’s palsy, which impacts about 1-2 out of every 1,000 babies.
Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury, which is a grouping of nerves located near the neck and extends all through the arms. The brachial plexus delivers feeling and movement to the shoulder, arm, and fingers, so if the brachial plexus is injured, it can result in reduced movement in the arm, paralysis, developmental delays, and a loss of sensation in the arm or hand. Erb’s palsy specifically refers to damage caused to nerves in the upper part of the brachial plexus.
In some cases, Erb’s palsy may be mild and treatable with routine physical therapy. But in situations where the damage is more severe, the child might need surgery or have problems that will last for the rest of their life. Erb’s palsy is often noticeable soon after birth, but it might take time to know the full extent of the injury. For example, since Erb’s palsy can cause developmental delays, you might not realize there is a problem until the child begins having problems meeting their developmental milestones. Or if a child is experiencing mild pain, it might not be obvious to you or other caretakers and you might not learn that there’s a problem until your child is old enough to tell you.
Very commonly, Erb’s palsy is the result of shoulder dystocia. If a child’s shoulders get stuck during delivery, the doctors or other professionals attending to the birth might use pulling maneuvers or birth assisting tools to help get the baby out. When used correctly, these methods can be safe and effective, but if they’re not, they can cause injuries in the child such as Erb’s palsy.
Shoulder dystocia isn’t the only known risk factor for Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy has also been known to occur when the infant is too large to pass through the birth canal, if the baby is in the breech position, and when the mother has gestational diabetes.
While shoulder dystocia is the kind of event that’s difficult to predict, factors like large infant size or being in the breech position are things doctors should be able to detect before delivery and take steps to handle them. In those types of situations, doctors often recommend a C-section to prevent any avoid complications and injuries.
If your child was born with Erb’s palsy and you believe it could have been prevented, don’t hesitate to call a birth trauma lawyer. Birth trauma cases are very complex and a lawyer will be able to help answer all of your questions, understand how the law applies to your situation, and help you figure out which steps to take next.