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New York birth injuries: Understanding Erb’s palsy

Negligence during labor and delivery, among other factors, may contribute to infants suffering birth injuries and the development Erb’s palsy.

For families throughout New York and elsewhere, the birth of a child is often a joyous occasion. However, the jubilation of the moment may be marred when parents realize their infants have suffered birth injuries that may cause them temporary pain and discomfort, or long-term complications. This includes the development of conditions such as Erb-Duchenne palsy.

More commonly known as Erb's palsy, Erb-Duchenne palsy is the term used to classify injuries that cause paralysis to the upper brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends and receives signals between the spine and the arm, shoulder and hand. When trauma of some type causes avulsion, rupture, neuroma or neuropraxia of these nerves, Erb's palsy may result.

Causes of Erb-Duchenne palsy

There are numerous factors that may play a role in causing infants to suffer brachial plexus palsy, including medical negligence and difficult deliveries. When infants are breech, pressure may be placed on their raised arms, resulting in this type of injury. Additionally, newborns may suffer Erb's palsy as a result of their shoulders cause their heads and necks to pull to the side as they pass through the birth canal or their shoulders being stretched during head-first deliveries.

Any infant born through a difficult delivery may be at risk for suffering this type of brachial plexus injury. However, the risk may be greater for larger-than-average sized newborns and those born breech. When health care professionals take precautions to avoid or prepare for such issues during the labor and delivery process, they may help prevent infants from suffering these types of injuries.

Common Erb's palsy symptoms

Infants who suffer from Erb's palsy may display various symptoms. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these may include the following:

  • No Moro reflex on the side of the injury
  • No movement of the infant's arm or hand
  • A diminished grip on the injury side
  • The affected arm being bent and held against the side of the body

In some cases, the signs of this disorder may present immediately. Other newborns, however, may show symptoms shortly after birth.

The prognosis for infants with Erb's palsy

Depending on the types and severity of their birth injuries, many babies may recover from Erb's palsy with time. In other cases, such as when the nerve root is separated from the spinal cord, those affected with this condition may experience long-term effects. These may include permanent weakness or paralysis of the arm due to a loss of function of the nerves or abnormal muscle contractures.

Treating Erb's palsy

The medical care babies who suffer from Erb's palsy may require varies based on the severity of their conditions. In mild cases, infants may be put through range-of-motion exercises and receive gentle massages. When their injuries are more severe and they do not regain their strength and movement, infants may be referred to specialists and surgery may be considered.

Seeking legal guidance

When birth injuries occur as a result of doctor negligence or some other factor, it may cause prolonged pain, discomfort and ongoing issues for infants born in New York and elsewhere. Often requiring medical treatment beyond that needed for the average newborn, these conditions may result in undue medical bills and other hardships for families with children who suffer from Erb's palsy. In some cases, however, the medical professional or facility may be held liable. Therefore, parents of children with this condition may find it helpful to meet with an attorney to discuss their rights and options for pursuing financial compensation.

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