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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.