Detecting and understanding how Erb’s palsy is contracted is essential as such a paralysis can create life-altering conditions for your newborn. Erb’s palsy requires special attention and care in order to treat it. And, if it is a result of medical malpractice, you could be entitled to compensation for your child’s pain and suffering as well as medical expenses. Here’s what you need to know about Erb’s palsy, treating the condition, and potential surgical options.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a condition resulting from an injury to the brachial plexus, the nerve network responsible for arm, shoulder, and neck movement. This brachial plexus palsy is named after one of the doctors who first described this condition, Wilhelm Erb.
Palsy refers to weakness. So Erb’s palsy refers to arm weakness or motion loss resulting from a brachial plexus injury. Though these injuries tend to heal on their own, more severe brachial injury variations can cause your child to lose usage of the arm or upper extremities. Your newborn may be able to move his or her fingers after contracting this palsy but will likely have trouble moving the arm or firmly gripping things.
What Causes Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy occurs due to complicated or abnormal labor and delivery. Such complications can lead to the baby’s nerves and muscles in the neck either tearing or stretching, causing a brachial plexus injury. During a complicated delivery, the baby’s head and neck may have been drawn to one side in order for the shoulders to pass through the birth canal. During breech deliveries, where babies are born feet-first, a doctor may have to pull harder for the baby to come out. This extra force can put undue pressure on the baby’s arms, shoulders, and neck, causing injuries to the nerves.
There are four categories of Erb’s palsy that your child’s symptoms might fall under. One such type is neuropraxia, which is the most common type. Also called a stinger or burner, neuropraxia involves the stretching of a nerve but not a tear. Neuropraxia heals within three months in many cases without any noticeable side effects.
Then, there are more serious ones such as neuroma, which is triggered by severe stretching of the nerve fibers. During the healing process, scar tissue can build up along the nerves, causing discomfort and making a full recovery harder to achieve.
Erb’s palsy can also occur in the form of ruptures, where nerves are stretched to such an extent that they tear and require surgery. And the most devastating variation of this palsy is known as an avulsion, where the nerves are torn away from the spinal cord and cannot be reattached. The sooner you can pick up on certain signs, the easier it is for a doctor to diagnose which palsy type it is and recommend an Erb’s palsy treatment that will work best.
Noticing Erb’s Palsy
Though it won’t be until you visit your healthcare specialist that you know how severe your child’s Erb’s palsy is, there are ways to pick up on symptoms of this condition.
The most noticeable sign is that your child is unable to move his or her arm shortly after being born. Though your infant won’t raise their arms with much power during the early days, they do move their arms. If you rarely notice any movement in a particular or even both arms, that is cause for concern.
Regarding the movement of the limbs, having Erb’s palsy can impair a baby’s reflexes or cause them to be non-existent altogether. Because the brachial plexus nerves are damaged, your infant’s arm won’t react as timely as it should. Sensations that trigger movement within the arm and upper extremities are delayed or non-existent. This disuse will then lead to weakness in those areas. You may also notice that your child’s arm is bent towards his or her body. If your baby’s arm is positioned in an unusual way or looks limp, this is a sign that your child is dealing with Erb’s palsy.
Your child will experience intense pain and either cry non-stop once you’re touching the affected area or make high-pitched screams because they cannot bear the pain of the position they are in.
Erb’s Palsy Treatment Options
For milder injuries, Erb’s palsy treatment doesn’t involve medical intervention. Mild stretches or tears will fully heal on their own within a few months.
For moderate or severe injuries, medical professionals will recommend physical and occupational therapy to build strength in the arm. Physical therapy involves exercises to improve mobility while reducing pain. Occupational therapy boosts coordination and encourages successful re-calibration to everyday activities such as playing and holding things.
If recovery for your child’s condition takes longer than three months or the effects of their injury are still being felt after therapy, then surgery will be needed. The most serious Erb’s palsy cases necessitate procedures for nerve repair and restoration, making the nerves functional again.
Surgical Erb’s palsy treatments include nerve grating or transfer, where a working nerve from another part of the body replaces the damaged nerve. Minimally invasive surgery is utilized if the purpose of surgery is simply to relieve pressure on the nerves. Recovery can take months or longer depending on how your child responds to the operation, and there is a possibility that the child will never fully regain sensation in the affected arm.
Your child’s brachial plexus injury and subsequent Erb’s palsy could be the result of medical malpractice, such as applying forceful pressure during delivery or using birth-assistance tools. In such cases, you have the legal right to file lawsuits seeking compensation for your child’s pain and suffering.
As a result, you may get damages to cover your child’s medical expenses and rehabilitation. You and your lawyer will need to gather as much evidence as possible to prove this was a direct cause of malpractice so you can get the justice you deserve.
Get legal case help for your Erb’s palsy case via the Safe Birth Project, so you can get your child the care and protection they need.