The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons defines Erb’s Palsy as a form of brachial plexus palsy. The brachial plexus is an area near the neck composed of a network of nerves that aid the arm, hand and fingers by providing both feeling and movement. An injury during birth to this area can lead to permanent damage of the arm. This can lead to difficult using the arm. Parents may notice an infant who suffers from this type of injury favors the injured arm, holds the arm against his or her body often bent at the elbow and has a weakened grip with the hand of the injured arm.
The injury can occur during a difficult delivery. It happens when the infant’s head is pulled toward the side as the newborn passes through the birth canal. This can occur if a physician pulls on the infant’s shoulders to encourage delivery during a head-first presentation and when pressure is placed on the baby’s arms during a feet-first delivery.
Erb’s Palsy is unique because it results in paralysis that impacts the upper and lower arm. The risks of developing this condition are highest in the following situations:
- Breech delivery. If a baby is presenting feet-first the odds of the infant experiencing an injury to the nerves within his or her neck are increased. Depending on the severity of the injury, Erb’s Palsy could result.
- Large baby. The odds of a difficult delivery increase if the infant is measuring larger than normal. Medical professionals use the term fetal macrosomia to describe these large newborns. The Mayo Clinic states that this term is used for infants measuring larger than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Health care professionals can become aware of this condition when the fundal height, or distance from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone, is measured at each prenatal visit.
- Shoulder dystocia. This occurs when medical professionals have difficulty delivering the shoulders of the infant after the head has already emerged from the birth canal.
Medical advances have greatly reduced the risk of an infant developing this condition. However, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that even with these advances one or two of every 1,000 newborns suffer from Erb’s Palsy.
The condition can often be avoided with medical intervention. An obstetrician can intervene in situations where the infant is breeched or too large to deliver with a cesarean section. This technique, also known as a c-section, allows the infant to be delivered without passing through the birth canal.
If you are concerned a loved one suffers from Erb’s Palsy as the result of a physician or other medical professional’s negligent or reckless conduct, compensation may be available to help cover the cost of medical and rehabilitative care. Contact an experienced birth injury lawyer to discuss your situation and better ensure your legal rights are protected.