What is Erb's Palsy and How Is It Caused?

One of the most common preventable birth injuries we see in newborn children is a condition called Erb’s Palsy. Erb’s Palsy is a condition of the nerves that is named after one of the doctors who discovered and described the disease, Dr. Wilhelm Erb.

baby-maximus-2-1022194-m.jpgTechnically speaking, Erb’s Palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy that affects the network of nerves in the neck, near the arm. These nerves control the motion of the arms, hands, and fingers. Therefore, those who suffer from Erb’s Palsy experience weakness in the arms, hands, and fingers.

In many cases of Erb’s Palsy, the infant will not be able to move his or her shoulder, but may retain some control of his or her hands and fingers. If an infant is unable to move his or her arm, hands, or fingers, the condition is more likely total brachial plexus palsy, rather than the more local Erb’s Palsy.

Type and Severity of Nerve Damage
There are, in general, four types of nerve damage that can occur. An infant may experience one or more of these symptoms, depending on the severity of his or her case.

  • Neurapraxia: This is the most common kind of nerve injury and is a stretching of the nerve. It can usually heal on its own in about three months.
  • Neuroma: A more serious stretch of the nerve tissue can result in scarring of the nerve. When this scarring pushes up against a healthy nerve, it is called neuroma. Most often, partial but not total recovery can occur.
  • Rupture: When the nerve itself is torn, that is called a rupture. This condition will not heal on its own.
  • Avulsion: An avulsion occurs when the nerve is torn from the spinal cord. This is the most serious kind of nerve injury, for it generally will not heal on its own, and even surgical options may not restore movement to the limb.

Causes of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is most commonly associated with difficult births or prolonged labor. It can also occur when the person assisting with the birth uses force to pull the baby from the birth canal. Finally, if one side of the baby’s neck is stretched during delivery, nerve damage may also occur.

Was Your Baby Born with Erb’s Palsy?

If your child was born with Erb’s Palsy or any other kind of preventable nerve condition, it may have been due to the negligence of the delivering physician. Many kinds of nerve injuries that are present at birth are preventable when proper care is taken during the delivery procedure. If the physician, a nurse, or the hospital was at fault for your child being born with Erb’s Palsy, you may be entitled to monetary damages to help compensate you and your child for the difference in your quality of life. To learn more about Erb’s Palsy, and to speak to a dedicated Maryland birth injury attorney, click here or call (410) 567-0800 today.

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