Everything You Need to Know About Erb’s Palsy | Charles Thronson

Everything You Need to Know About Erb’s Palsy

January 25, 2021

Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that causes damage to the nerves in the newborn child’s arm, causing arm weakness, numbness, and/or limited mobility. Also known as brachial plexus birth palsy (after the nerves that are affected), this injury occurs in approximately 1 to 2 births out of every 1000, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. It is also a condition that, in many cases, is preventable.

How Erb’s Palsy Occurs

Erb’s palsy most often happens in difficult or prolonged deliveries when an infant’s neck is stretched too far to the side as it is delivered. This can occur for any of a number of reasons—for example:

  • If the infant is large and has trouble exiting the birth canal;
  • If the infant is a breech birth; or
  • If there are dangerous complications that require a quick delivery and/or the use of additional force to remove the baby from the birth canal.

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves running from the spinal cord through the neck and into the arm. These nerves provide feeling in the arm and control muscle movement from the shoulder down to the hand. If the neck is stretched to one side during birth, these nerves may also be stretched and possibly damaged in the process.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy typically shows up in one arm. In most cases, the signs of Erb’s palsy will be noticeable at birth; at other times, they may develop over the course of the next several months. The common signs of Erb’s palsy include:

  • Numbness or loss of feeling in the arm
  • Arm weakness
  • Limited motion in the arm
  • Partial or total paralysis in the arm, shoulder, wrist, hand, or a combination of these

Is Erb’s palsy permanent?

It depends on the severity of the injury. In the majority of cases, Erb’s palsy will resolve on its own, but if the damage is severe, it may be unresolvable without help—or possibly permanent. Doctors categorize Erb’s palsy into four types of injury based on the damage:

  • Neurapraxia—The nerves are stretched but not torn. Neurapraxia is the most common form of Erb’s palsy and normally heals within a few months.
  • Neuroma—The damage results in scar tissue to the nerve, usually resulting in partial recovery, but not total.
  • Rupture—The nerve is torn and cannot heal on its own. Ruptures can sometimes be repaired by a nerve graft.
  • Avulsion—The nerve is completely torn from the spinal cord and cannot be repaired.

If you have a child that suffers from Erb’s palsy due to negligence or malpractice by a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation for care and damages. Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, has many years of experience in helping Utah families get proper compensation due to birth injuries. To learn more, call our office or complete our online form.

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