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June 2019

Facts About Erb’s Palsy: A Guide for Georgia Parents

Delivery errors present serious risks for both mother and infant, and one of the most common results of a birth injury is Erb’s palsy. According to the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence rate is around 2 per 1,000 live births, with significant arm weakness in 5 per 10,000 births. Unfortunately, nerve damage occurs from the moment of the injury and, without treatment, Erb’s palsy can become irreversible at age 18-24 months.

Erb’s palsy is almost always the result of trauma during delivery, but there are important questions about whether a medical error is behind a physician’s actions. If your baby suffered such a birth injury, you have rights as a parent. An Atlanta, GA birth injuries lawyer can explain the legal concepts that apply to your case, but some background information may be helpful. 

Medical Overview of Erb’s Palsy: The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons describes Erb’s palsy as a complication that occurs due to an injury to the cervical spine, specifically the brachial plexus. Lying between the C5 and C6 vertebrae, the brachial plexus is a series of nerves that extends into the baby’s arm. When damaged, the victim can develop Erb’s Palsy, which includes weakness, loss of motion, and physical limitations. Serious trauma can lead to complete paralysis from the shoulder down to the fingers on the affected side.

How Birth Errors Cause Erb’s Palsy: A brachial plexus injury is usually preventable, but may occur due to a medical error during delivery. Especially during a complicated delivery, the physician may apply too much pressure while guiding the infant down the birth canal. In some cases, the doctor may implement birth assistive devices. A separate study published by the National Institutes of Health revealed that improper use of a forceps or vacuum may cause brachial plexus injury because of excessive force on the baby’s neck and shoulders.

Nerve Damage from a Brachial Plexus Injury: There are four categories of nerve damage that may result from an injury to the baby’s brachial plexus, including:

  1. Neurapraxia may cause some trauma, but usually there’s no long-term damage. A baby should heal within 3-4 months and not develop Erb’s Palsy.
  2. When a mistake during delivery damages the nerves and leads to scar tissue, Neuroma may develop. This condition puts pressure on healthy nerves and affects range of motion. With physical therapy, most infants will experience full recovery.
  3. Serious trauma to the C5 or C6 may cause a nerve tear, which usually requires nerve graft surgery repair damaged fibers. Positive patient outcomes are less common with this medical procedure on older infants.
  4. The most traumatic nerve injury to the brachial plexus is Avulsion, where the nerve fiber is completely separated from the spinal cord. The injury is permanent and cannot be repaired through medical treatment.

Contact an Atlanta Birth Injury Attorney to Discuss Your Options

For more information on brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s palsy, please contact the Law Offices of Julie A. Rice in Atlanta, GA to schedule a no-cost case assessment. After reviewing your circumstances, we can tell you more about your right to recover compensation for your child’s care and related losses.


Top 5 Neonatal Medical Mistakes That Can Harm Your Baby

Even after you’ve gone through labor and given birth to a healthy infant, there are risks involved with your baby’s care in the first hours, days, or weeks afterwards. Newborns are fragile after the somewhat traumatic experience of birth, so they require particularly close monitoring and proper care for conditions that may develop. Mistakes in the baby’s neonatal medical care can have major adverse consequences, leading to brain injury, developmental disabilities, and even death.

If your infant suffered post-birth injuries, there may be circumstances suggesting neonatal medical malpractice. These cases involve complex legal issues, so it’s wise to consult with an Atlanta, GA birth injuries lawyer regarding your situation. You may also find it helpful to review some of the top neonatal errors that can cause harm to your newborn.

  1. Respiratory and Resuscitation Errors:

    In some cases, a newborn may have difficulty breathing or have an irregular heartbeat. An immediate medical response is absolutely essential to avoid severe oxygen deprivation to the brain. Healthcare providers may make critical errors by:

  • Delaying resuscitation;
  • Improper insertion of a breathing tube;
  • Failure to monitor a breathing assistance machine; and,
  • Not administering proper medications in infants that require them for respiratory function, blood flow, and blood pressure.
  1. Improper Treatment of Brain Bleeds:

    An intracranial hemorrhage, bleeding in the brain, can cause severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Bleeding in the brain bleeds is especially common in infants born through a complicated delivery, especially when the physician used a forceps or vacuum extractor. One of the most serious complications that can result is Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). According to Newborn Infant Nursing Review, up to 60 percent of affected infants die by 2 years of age or have severe, permanent disabilities.

  1. Diagnosis Errors:

    Some babies are born with infections, such as streptococcus, herpes, E. coli, meningitis, and other conditions. Another dangerous complication that can develop during the first few days of life is hypoglycemia, where the infant’s blood sugar falls to dangerous levels. It’s up to health care providers to diagnose and treat these conditions, but mistakes occur far too often.

  1. Mismanagement of Infant Seizures:

    Study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals that seizures are a common indicator of neurologic dysfunction in newborns, and they typically occur within the first week after birth. Immediate detection and treatment is essential to prevent brain damage, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and epilepsy.

  1. Failure to Treat Jaundice:

    According to NIH (NIH) statistics, approximately 60 percent of newborns will develop jaundice – high levels of bilirubin – within the first week of life. In many cases, jaundice is not associated with any other medical condition and will not cause harm to the baby. However, there may be underlying pathological issues that must be identified and treated.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Atlanta Infant Medical Malpractice Lawyer

For more information on your legal remedies after a medical error causes harm to your newborn, please contact the Atlanta, GA Law Offices of Julie A. Rice. We can set up a complimentary case evaluation to review your circumstances and discuss your potential legal remedies.


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