What Is Erb's Palsy?

Posted By Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC || 2-Mar-2015

For parents of children born with this condition, the devastating effects of Erb’s palsy are all too familiar. Erb’s palsy is a type of birth defect that affects the neck, arm, hands and fingers. Erb’s is a specific type of brachial plexus palsy. Not all cases of Erb’s palsy are the result of some type of medical negligence, but some are. Continue reading for a breakdown of Erb’s palsy, its effects, treatment options, and negligence lawsuits.

Erb’s Palsy Defined

Erb’s Palsy and Brachial Plexus
Erb’s palsy is a condition caused by paralysis of brachial plexus nerves. The brachial plexus is a grouping of nerves located in the upper arm, and Erb’s palsy is characterized by injury to the C5 and C6 nerves specifically.

Shoulder Dystocia
For the nerves of the brachial plexus to be damaged, there has to be some sort of trauma. In cases of Erb’s palsy, the damage is usually caused by shoulder dystocia during delivery. Shoulder dystocia can occur:

  • When the infant is passing through the birth canal at an odd angle
  • If the doctor pulls too much on the baby’s shoulders during delivery
  • In cases of head first or “breech” delivery
  • In infants with an abnormally high birth weight

Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

Infants born with Erb’s palsy will usually display symptoms such as irregular positioning in the arm, loss of feeling, or inflexibility of the arm, elbow, or fingers. Some cases of Erb’s palsy result in permanent disfigurement or disability. For example, some babies born with Erb’s have an arm that never fully develops, so it is smaller than the unharmed arm.

Treating Erb’s Palsy

Minor cases of Erb’s palsy can heal on their own, but more extreme measures like surgery and rehabilitation need to be taken in some cases, which can become expensive. The most common avenues taken in Erb’s palsy cases include:

  • Nerve transplants
  • Sub Scapularis releases
  • Tendon transfers

Erb’s Palsy and Medical Malpractice Cases

Doctors and healthcare professionals are held to a certain standard of care. While there is risk associated with any medical procedure, some medical injuries are the direct result of negligence. For example, some Erb’s palsy claims are filed against doctors who fail to recommend a caesarian section when they should have, or against doctors who pull excessively on an infant during delivery, causing nerve damage.

If you believe your child was born with Erb’s palsy due to medical negligence, we invite you to contact the Portland medical malpractice lawyers at Paulson Coletti, rated “Best Law Firms” in medical malpractice law!