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Erb's Palsy

Assistance With Brachial Plexus Injuries - Illinois Birth Injury Attorney

If the proper care is not taken during labor and delivery, a child can suffer serious birth injuries. Brachial plexus injuries are one common type of trauma that can occur, especially if a child experiences shoulder dystocia during birth. In some cases, these types of injuries can result in a condition known as Erb's Palsy.

What Is Erb's Palsy?

Brachial plexus injuries affect the nerves that connect the spine with the shoulders, arms, and hands. A child may experience Erb's Palsy if the nerves in the upper portion of the brachial plexus are injured. These nerves control the movement of the shoulder and upper arm, and if they are damaged, a child may experience weakness or paralysis in their shoulder and upper arm, but they may still retain control over their hand and fingers.

Risk Factors

Brachial plexus injuries leading to Erb's Palsy often occur because excessive strain is placed an infant's head or neck during delivery, causing nerves to become ruptured, torn, stretched, or otherwise damaged. Some factors that can increase the risk of this type of injury include:

  • Breech birth
  • Use of forceps or a vacuum extractor during delivery
  • Macrosomia, or the child's head being too large to safely fit through the birth canal, which can occur because of large infant size or small maternal size
  • Pregnancy-related conditions, including maternal obesity or gestational diabetes
  • Induced labor

Signs and Symptoms

Erb's Palsy affects sensation and movement in the upper arm, and parents may notice certain symptoms that their child has experienced this condition, including:

  • The arm may be limp at the shoulder, or it may be held against the side of the body while bending the arm at the elbow.
  • The child may be unable to grip objects with the fingers of the affected hand.
  • The child may experience a loss of sensation in the upper arm. Newborn infants may not respond to temperature change, stimulation, or pain in this part of the body.
  • The child may experience pain while moving their arm, or they may have a restricted range of motion.

Treatment

Depending on the severity of the nerve damage, Erb's Palsy may be relatively mild, or it may result in life-long paralysis and disabilities. It can also affect the growth and development of a child's circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems, so any required treatments should be administered as soon as possible. Potential treatments may include:

  • Nerve surgery - It may be possible to repair some neurological damage through nerve grafts or transfers. These surgeries are typically performed when a child is between three and six months old.
  • Muscle surgery - A procedure known as subscapularis release can increase the stretching ability of the arm muscles.
  • Tendon surgery - Latissimus dorsi tendon transfer may be performed to improve the rotation of the shoulder.
  • Physical therapy - Massage therapy, stretching, and physical exercises can help improve range of motion in the affected arm and increase muscle strength.
  • Muscle stimulation - Electrical stimulation of muscles can assist in building muscle tissue and improving blood flow.
  • Temporary muscle paralysis - Botox injections may be used to temporarily paralyze certain muscles in the arm. This can improve flexibility and allow weaker muscles to develop.
  • Orthotics - Braces, splints, or other devices may be used to ensure that a child's joints are aligned properly and encourage proper growth and development of the shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand.

Caring for a Child With Erb's Palsy

Erb's Palsy can affect a child's well-being for years to come, or even the rest of their life. Surgery, physical therapy, and a variety of other treatments may be necessary, and depending on the severity of the injury, the child may have a permanent disability. The lifetime costs required to provide care for a child can be very high, and parents will want to be sure to understand their options for receiving financial assistance that will help them meet their child's needs.

At the Birth Injury Law Alliance, we can evaluate your case free of charge and help determine whether a brachial plexus injury and Erb's Palsy resulted from medical negligence. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at 312-945-1300.

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