ERBS Palsy

“What is Erb palsy in infants?”

Erb’s Palsy is a disorder of the brachial plexus, a bundle of five nerves controlling the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Approximately five thousand children each year suffer a traumatic injury to the brachial plexus during the birthing process, resulting in Brachial Plexus Palsy, or Erb’s Palsy. This means approximately one or two out of every one thousand births may result in this often avoidable injury.

Erb’s Palsy induces paralysis of body parts controlled by the brachial plexus, which may cause these symptoms:

  • No muscle control and/or no feeling in arms or hands
  • Ability to move the arms, but little control over the wrist and hand
  • Ability to use the hands, but not the shoulder or elbow

Four main types of injuries to the brachial plexus result in Erb’s Palsy:

  • Avulsion: the nerve is torn from the spine
  • Rupture: the nerve tears, but is not torn away from the spine
  • Neuroma: the nerve tries to heal itself, forming scar tissue around the injury and preventing signals from the nerve to the muscle
  • Praxis: the nerve does not tear and heals itself

Why Brachial Plexus Occurs

During delivery, the infant’s shoulder may become ‘stuck’ on the mother’s pelvic bone. This is called Shoulder Dystocia. Doctors have a variety of accepted procedures for dislodging the baby’s shoulder, including traction. Sometimes the traction is excessive because the doctor cannot dislodge the baby, resulting in injury to the brachial plexus nerves located in the baby’s neck.

Additionally, mothers who receive an epidural may not feel the need to push, so the doctor may use forceps or a vacuum to assist the baby in descending. This also increases the risk of shoulder dystocia and injury to the baby.

While most babies are born to a chorus of happy tears, infants affected by Brachial Plexus injuries face a lifetime of problems. Lawsuits involving claims of negligence resulting in Erb’s Palsy may cite these issues:

  • Failing to estimate the weight of the baby before delivery
  • Failing to perform a timely cesarean section, or no C-section at all
  • Failing to diagnose and/or treat gestational diabetes
  • Failing to inform parents of inherent risks of delivering a large infant vaginally
  • Failing to perform accepted delivery techniques for managing shoulder dystocia
  • Unnecessary and/or excessive force used during delivery
  • Unsuitable delivery techniques used to manage shoulder dystocia

In cases of Brachial Plexus Palsy, damages can include:

  • Medical expenses for treatment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Other damages suffered by the plaintiff