Understanding Erb's Palsy

When your pregnant, you can’t wait to hold your perfect infant for the first time. But childbirth can be a stressful process and sometimes during delivery things don’t go as planned. As a result of adverse circumstances or an error by a medical professional, your baby can suffer from a birth injury. One of the most common birth injuries resulting from medical error is Erb’s palsy.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy results from damage to an infant’s brachial plexus, which is the main group of nerves running through the shoulder and upper arm. The brachial plexus nerves tear, move, or break, which can result in nerve damage or paralysis in the upper arm. Erb’s palsy can occur during a difficult delivery and is typically the result of shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s head is delivered but the shoulder is stuck inside the mother’s body. This can result in a stretching of the infant’s neck, which causes nerve damage.

As a result of Erb’s palsy, an infant lacks mobility and experiences weakness in the arm. Erb’s palsy can usually be corrected through the use of physical therapy and exercises. However, sometimes, Erb’s palsy requires extensive treatment and can result in permanent nerve damage.

Risk Factors for Erb’s Palsy

There are a number of risk factors for Erb’s palsy that a medical professional should take note of prior to delivery. These risk factors include:

  • Infant macrosomia—infants that are larger than average may have trouble safely passing through the birth canal and are at a higher risk of shoulder dystocia
  • Size of the mother—a mother who is smaller in stature may have trouble delivering a baby safely through the birth canal
  • Prolonged labor—if the second stage of labor lasts longer than an hour then there is a significant risk that an infant will sustain a birth injury
  • Gestational diabetes—gestational diabetes can lead to a very large baby
  • Use of assistive tools for delivery—the use of tools such as vacuums and forceps to assist in delivery can result in a stretching of the neck muscle
  • Excessive maternal weight gain
  • Infant in a breech position

What Can a Medical Professional Do?

Before and during labor and delivery, medical professionals have a duty to adhere to the standard of care. Erb’s palsy is usually the result of medical negligence. A doctor should be able to recognize the risk factors for Erb’s palsy and to proceed accordingly. Erb’s palsy can be prevented with adequate prenatal care and a birth team that is prepared to act if a risky situation arises. A failure to properly evaluate the situation and order a timely C-section can result in tragic injury to an infant.

Contact an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney

If your child sustained a birth injury due to medical negligence, you should have an experienced birth injury attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping New Yorkers who have been injured by medical negligence. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.