There is a lot to worry about during childbirth. There are things within your control and things that aren’t. Yet, we worry about all of them equally.
But in all these thoughts, it usually never occurs to us that the child could be disabled or be a victim of a child’s birth injury. And that happens a lot more frequently than you’d expect.
One of the most common disabilities in newborns is Erb’s Palsy. No, this isn’t cerebral palsy. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one or two of every thousand babies has this condition.
You might be surprised by how frequently these cases occur, but more shocking is that Erb’s Palsy isn’t a congenital disability like cerebral palsy, rather it is one of the common birth injuries.
These are disabilities caused by physical injury during delivery, usually inflicted by medical practitioners.
They may qualify as medical negligence, at which point you could file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit for your child’s injury. But when exactly can an Erb’s palsy claim be eligible for a medical malpractice personal injury lawsuit?
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy (or Erb-Duchenne Palsy) affects the shoulder and arm of an infant. It is caused by brachial plexus injury. This condition causes weakness and loss of motion in the affected arm.
The brachial plexus is a network of five nerves that run down your neck from the spine to the hand. These nerves are essential for the normal functioning of the arm, as they control both movement and sensory functions.
If these nerves are damaged, a brachial plexus birth palsy occurs. Erb’s palsy is one of the most common of these.
What Are The Causes Of Erb’s Palsy?
This condition is usually caused by stretching or pulling the baby’s head and shoulders during childbirth with excessive force. These are more likely to occur during difficult childbirths, where the doctors would have to move quickly to extract the baby from the womb.
This stretching causes brachial plexus injury.
While medical professionals are trained to handle newborns with the utmost care for child health, certain factors increase the risk of Erb’s Palsy occurrence. These include:
- Shoulder Dystocia: The child is meant to be guided safely out of the womb during childbirth. That becomes difficult when there’s an obstruction. In these cases, one or both of the baby’s shoulders gets stuck inside the birth canal pulling their arms wrongly.
When this happens, normal childbirth becomes difficult, and the chances of the child developing Erb’s Palsy and other brachial plexus birth injuries increases.
- Macrosomia: In plain terms, the baby is heavier than the average. When the baby is this big, childbirth gets tricky. This is because the child is too big for the birth canal, and the risk of a birth injury increases.
Male babies are likely to weigh more than females, increasing the chances of macrosomia.
- Excessive Maternal Weight: If the mother weighs a lot, there is a high chance the child will be macrosomic. These conditions can increase the risk of Erb’s Palsy.
- Maternal Diabetes: If healthcare professionals do not control maternal diabetes properly, the child may be born larger than normal. This size would adversely impact labor.
- Small or Abnormally-shaped Maternal Pelvis: The child doesn’t have to be macrosomic for this complication to occur. The child could be average–sized, but if the mother’s pelvis is smaller than expected, a complication could arise that may lead to Erb’s Palsy or other birth injuries.
- Breech Births: In breech births, the baby’s feet appear first, instead of the head, like in a regular delivery. When this happens, medical staff must take delicate steps to extract the child from the womb.
When the doctor pulls on the baby’s legs, the arms in the womb are drawn over the head, harassing the brachial plexus more. This could lead to a child’s birth injury.
- Medical Negligence: Finally, it is sometimes the fault of the doctors. Medical malpractice can also cause conditions like Erb’s Palsy to manifest. In these cases, you can sue for an Erb’s palsy compensation claim when you are certain that the doctor failed to provide adequate medical care and prevent your child’s injuries.
What Are The Types Of Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy can be classified into four classes based on the severity of the nerve damage. These include:
This is the most serious type of Erb’s Palsy. In this condition, the affected nerve is entirely ripped away from the spinal cord. There is no nervous connection between the arm and the spine anymore.
There is also a torn nerve, but it doesn’t occur at the spine. Instead, it happens anywhere else down the nerve’s length. This break ends the nervous communication with the further parts of the arm.
This one is a bit different. In this case, there is still some connection between the spine and the arm. However, this connection was torn, healed, and surrounded by scar tissue.
This scar tissue applies pressure to the nerve, preventing the transmission of signals from the spine to the muscles.
With this one, the nerve is stretched but remains intact. The stretching causes some damage, but since the nerve is intact, it is easily rectified. This type of brachial plexus injury is the most common.
What Are The Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy?
There are a few characteristics that are constant in these cases. These signs can indicate if your newborn has Erb’s Palsy.
- Limp Shoulder And Arm With Loss Of Range Of Motion
The first noticeable symptom of this birth injury is usually the child’s inability to raise their arm away from their body. There is also a difficulty or inability to bend the elbow. The affected arm lies limp at the child’s sides.
- “Waiter’s tip” Hand Position
Another important sign is the Waiter’s Tip hand position. It is a particular placement of the arm and hand that is unique to patients suffering from Erb’s Palsy.
Here, the arm hangs limp, with the elbow extended and the hand turned backward with curled fingers.
- Numbness Of The Arm
With many brachial plexus injuries, there is some form of numbness, as sensory information isn’t passed along anymore. The child would be unable to feel any sensations on that arm. However, they may feel some tingling sensations there.
How Is Erb’s Palsy Treated?
Your child’s Erb’s palsy treatment would depend on its severity. For the less severe cases, non-surgical methods are sufficient and effective.
Minor cases would resolve on their own in a few months. However, you can expect your healthcare provider to prescribe some physical therapy exercises to help the healing process along.
For the severe ones, expensive surgical procedures may have to be employed. That is after there haven’t been improvements in the child’s Erb’s palsy when applying the non-surgical exercises.
The birth injury may require some special procedures for its treatment. These include:
- Nerve Grafting: This is where surgeons splice a piece of nerve tissue to rectify the damage. This tissue could be an autograft from another nerve in the patient’s body. It could also be a well-processed and sterilized allograft from a cadaver.
- Nerve Transfer: This procedure involves splicing redundant healthy nerves with the ends of the damaged brachial plexus nerves. The healthy nerve begins to grow through the damaged one and corrects all issues in time.
- Tendon Transfer: This procedure entails the transfer of the attachment of a normal tendon to the shoulder area. This would improve the child’s mobility of the arm.
After the surgery, it would take months or even years for your child’s nerves to recover completely. During this period, the doctor would recommend some rehabilitation exercises to aid the surgical work that has been done on your child’s brachial plexus injury.
The child may also need multiple surgeries to enhance the arm’s range of movement and function.
How Do You Prevent Erb’s Palsy?
While Erb’s palsy usually comes as a surprise, you can take some steps to prevent its occurrence even in cases with high risk of birth injury.
- Adequate Maternal Medical Care
Like cerebral palsy, some risk factors of a child having this birth injury stem from the mother, so managing those aspects properly is critical.
This is especially important for mothers with gestational diabetes. If their condition is well-managed, you can reduce the chances of the child getting larger. That would make Erb’s Palsy less likely.
- Scans And Advanced Planning
Scans can inform the doctor that the fetus isn’t developing in the correct position or that the baby is larger than normal. With this information in the medical records, your healthcare provider can make adequate plans for an easier birthing process and your child’s safety.
Your doctor may suggest that you use a cesarean section to prevent complications and serious injuries.
When Do You File Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits?
Erb’s palsy is caused by excessive pulling or stretching of the baby’s arms. This is usually done by the medical professional involved in the birthing process. These people have been trained to prevent these eventualities from occurring. Yet somehow, it still happens under their watch.
The treatment for an Erb’s Palsy case isn’t cheap either. According to a study, the average cost for brachial plexus palsy surgery in patients treated from 2007 to 2015 was $38,816. That amount doesn’t include indirect expenses like physical therapy sessions, continuous medical bills, or psychological damage due to the child’s injury.
And if left untreated, the condition may burden your child with permanent paralysis of the arm and more loss of mobility. And as the child grows, the affected arm becomes noticeably smaller than the healthy one. This might expose them to bullying in schools, leading to psychological trauma.
If you file a birth injury lawsuit and claim medical malpractice, you can get financial compensation that would cover your child’s Erb’s palsy medical bills. One that would ensure that your child doesn’t suffer from the medical mistakes of your healthcare provider.
With all these on the line, it is understandable to want these medical practitioners held accountable for Erb’s palsy malpractice.
However, proving that the doctor committed medical negligence is not a walk in the park. Before you file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit, your case would have to be reviewed by a partner law firm, and medical professionals. They will analyze the case and prove if it was medical malpractice.
Many birth injury cases settle in Erb’s palsy lawsuit settlements outside the court. With good Erb’s palsy lawyers, you can get compensation for your child’s injury without standing before a judge.
You would need the help of a competent Erb’s Palsy lawsuit attorney before you take legal action. A lawyer from Justpoint would be perfect for your medical malpractice case.
Get Matched With A Qualified Erb’s Palsy Attorney At Justpoint Today
So you’ve decided to take legal action? You should know that getting an Erb’s palsy settlement for your medical negligence case may not be as easy as you think.
You may not get a settlement for your erb’s palsy claim without a skilled attorney. Even if you do, it is likely that you won’t get the Erb’s palsy case verdict you deserve. Fortunately, you have no problems with Justpoint on your side for your medical malpractice case.
You can get a free initial consultation from Justpoint anytime, and we’ll pick the most suitable birth injury attorney for your case. This is to ensure that a quality attorney client relationship is built. Every Erb’s palsy attorney in our legal team is an expert in their field, so you can rest easy that your lawyer is great at their job.
We have a team of medical experts on standby to analyze your medical malpractice case and ensure that no detail is overlooked. This is to get you the best Erb’s palsy compensation to cover all the medical expenses and damages your child suffered.
Whatever questions you have, be they about your Erb’s palsy claim or for professional medical advice, we’ll be glad to help. Get in touch with a Justpoint Erb’s palsy attorney today, and let’s get started.