One of the most joyous experiences in a woman’s life is giving birth; however, sometimes that joy can quickly fade to horror when parents realize there are problems with the delivery of their precious newborn. One of the most common birth injuries that can occur is called Erb’s palsy or Brachial Plexus Injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand. When those nerves are damaged, brachial plexus injuries occur.
Erb’s palsy results in a newborn being able to move one arm but not the other. Approximately one or two out of every 1,000 babies is born with Erb’s palsy. Many infants born with this condition will recover both movement and sensation in the affected arm in time without needing surgery or any other type of treatments. However, if the nerves don’t recover on their own, surgery may be required.
Tragically, most Erb’s palsy injuries are caused by medical negligence and could have been avoided as there are ways to prevent what leads to Erb’s from happening or dealing with it as it happens.
What Causes Erb’s?
Shoulder dystocia is one of the most common causes of Erb’s palsy and is also one of the greatest nightmares an obstetrician can face during delivery. After delivery of the baby’s head, if the baby’s anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, shoulder dystocia will occur. With shoulder dystocia, the rest of the baby does not follow the head easily out of the vagina as it would in a normal delivery.
Brachial plexus injuries typically occur during difficult deliveries like when the baby is large, when it is breech, when the mother suffers through prolonged labor, and when the baby’s head must be forcefully pulled out of the birth canal. If a baby’s neck is stretched, the nerves can be damaged, and when the upper part of the nerves are affected, the result is Erb’s Palsy.
Telltale Signs of Erb’s Palsy
A brachial plexus injury exhibits many signs including, one arm will be slightly turned with a bent wrist and straight fingers. Sometimes there is a droopy eyelid on the affected side, and this will indicate a more severe nerve injury. A brachial plexus injury usually causes severe pain from the neck down on the affected side, and people with these injuries sometimes report the arms has a “pins and needles” sensation or feels like it is on fire.
Other symptoms include:
- Loss of strength in the affected arm/hand
- Lack of muscle control in the arm, hand, or wrist
- Limp or paralyzed arm
- Eyelid droop/small pupil
- An internally rotated and abducted wrist and arm
- Nerve damage
- Scapular winging
When your baby does not recover from brachial plexus injuries, you doctor will probably want to examine him at one-month-old and three-months-old, and if there is no change over the first three months, nerve surgery may be suggested. However, after one year of age, nerve surgery cannot restore normal function to your baby. Physical therapy and range-of-motion exercises may also be recommended and are very important to keep the baby’s joints from getting stiff. Your doctor will discuss which treatment options are best based on the severity of your baby’s birth injury.
If your loved one has suffered due to medical malpractice, please contact Long & Long today to schedule your initial consultation.