Erb's palsy is localized in the upper portion of the brachial plexus. In some brachial plexus injuries, both the upper and lower nerve networks are affected. This is a more severe condition than Erb's palsy and classified broadly as a brachial plexus birth injury. Erb's palsy is easily identifiable if you know the symptoms.
- Weakness in one arm
- Loss of feeling in one arm
- Loss of movement in arm or shoulder
- Partial or total paralysis in one arm
- Arm hangs limply at side
- Arm bent inward
- Weak grip
Usually, the difference between the two arms is stark and gets recognized quickly. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, don't hesitate to contact a doctor. Erb's palsy is treatable, but the results will be best if you act quickly.
Treatment & Recovery
The severity of Erb's palsy varies from patient to patient. Some infants only have mild temporary numbness, while others may suffer from full paralysis of one arm or intense pain. The method of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Fortunately, the vast majority of infants recover fully when the condition is treated effectively.
Physical therapy is the most common treatment method. If your doctor recommends this route, he or she will work with you to develop an exercise plan for your baby. It will then be your responsibility to do these exercises with your baby on a daily basis, as often as you can throughout the day. These exercises focus on improving range of motion and preventing permanent joint stiffness.
If three to six months have passed by and symptoms still have not improved, then surgery may be necessary. The procedure would focus on repairing the affected nerves. This can be done in one of two ways:
- Nerve grafts - Your physician may opt to repair the damage by splicing a nerve graft from one of your child's other nerves.
- Nerve transfer - Alternately, he or she may choose to transfer a nerve from another muscle group.
Even if the problem is largely repaired, your baby may still experience weakness or impaired function in brachial plexus region. You will need to continue to perform exercises in order to slowly build up strength and a normal range of motion. Some patients will continue to experience weakness into childhood. In these cases, your doctor may suggest further surgical procedures in order to restore function.
Is Malpractice To Blame?
Many cases of Erb's palsy could have been prevented by more thorough medical planning. As we mentioned above, this condition is most commonly caused by shoulder dystocia or an abnormally large infant. In either case, delivery becomes difficult and the delivery party may damage nerves by using too much force. There are a few circumstances in which a healthcare professional acted negligently to cause the injury, resulting in malpractice:
- Large infants - Your physician should have been aware of and planned for complications which could arise while delivering a particularly heavy infant. In many of these cases, the birth could have gone more smoothly if a cesarean section was ordered.
- Excessive force - Infants are extremely delicate creatures. Good physicians will keep this in mind and make sure not to pull too forcefully on the arms or shoulders.
- Improper tool use - Sometimes, birth assistance tools such as a vacuum or forceps may be necessary for delivery. Improper use of these tools may constitute malpractice.
Unless you're a doctor yourself, most parents may be unsure if a negligent action contributed to their child's injury. If you suspect that this is the case, look for an experienced birth injury legal team with reliable contacts in the medical field.
While not as severe as cerebral palsy, Erb's palsy is still an expensive condition for parents. If a negligent medical professional is to blame for your child's condition, you may be awarded compensation for relevant expenses, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
Be aware that PA has a 2-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. If you suspect that your baby's condition could have been prevented with more careful treatment, contact our experienced birth injury lawyers today for a free consultation.
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