What are the Long-Term Effects of Erb’s Palsy?


February 3, 2017 / Medical Malpractice

Expectant parents fret endlessly over the birth of a child. They go to classes, read books and prepare their homes in hopes of ensuring that everything goes smoothly once their baby arrives. Birth injuries represent some of the deepest fears of parents-to-be, mostly because so many facets of the birthing process are beyond their control. It’s one of the many reasons that parents go to such great lengths to check a doctor’s references and pick the perfect obstetrician.

Even with these precautions, birth injuries still happen. Somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of births involve some form of birth injury. One of the most common forms of birth injuries is called Erb’s palsy, and it is so often the result of an error on behalf of the healthcare provider.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a birth injury in which the nerves in a newborn’s arm suffer damage. It is a form of brachial plexus injury (the brachial plexus is a complex system of nerves that spread throughout a large portion of the upper body). Erb’s palsy occurs when damage is done to the upper section of nerves in the arm.

How Does Erb’s Palsy Happen?

Erb’s palsy is an injury that occurs during birth. It is often due to an obstruction, also called dystocia. It can occur because of an abnormal position of the child, complications involving the birth canal, or because the baby is an abnormal size. Many of these risk factors are identified by medical professionals before or during birth, increasing the chances of avoiding nerve damage to the newborn.

These injuries can also be due to the actions of nurses or doctors during birth. For example, excessive force or stretching may cause Erb’s palsy. In some cases, the improper use of forceps or vacuums may also play a role in a birth injury.

The Effects of Erb’s Palsy

The nerve damage can severely limit the range of motion of an arm and result in physical disability and paralysis. It can also be very painful. In milder forms of Erb’s palsy, a newborn may recover through physical therapy or surgery. In more severe cases, the result is a lifelong disability.

Erb’s palsy may cause permanent loss of function in the affected arm, and abnormal muscle contractions in the shoulder may become permanent. These conditions could cause difficulty in the performance of some job duties and impact the sufferer’s ability to earn an income. Even their recreational opportunities and sports activities may be limited by the residual effects of their birth injury.

The effects of Erb’s palsy go well beyond physical harm. People with physical limitations from birth injuries may suffer psychologically, have poor self-esteem and respond with anger to their frustration over being “different.”

This condition could result in extensive medical treatment, both immediate and future and include lifelong expenses related to treatment and care. The impact is felt on both the individual suffering from Erb’s palsy and on his or her family.  Birth injuries can deplete a family’s savings and a sizable portion of its income long after the initial injury.

If your child has suffered birth injuries and you believe that a doctor or other medical professional may have contributed to those injuries, contact the birth injury attorneys at Stephenson Rife to schedule a free consultation. Our team represents clients with medical malpractice claims, and we make sure they get the payment they deserve.

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