The birth of a child is a highlight of any parent’s life. However, the excitement surrounding a new baby can be diminished quickly when physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff commit an act of malpractice that results in serious and irreparable harm to their child. If your child was injured during birth, contact our experienced Belleville medical malpractice lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC today at 618-277-3644.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy is a devastating and debilitating injury that newborns can suffer as a result of medical malpractice. Also known as Erb-Duchenne Palsy, Erb’s Palsy is typically diagnosed as a paralysis of an arm which is caused by trauma or injury to the nerves which control the arm.
The typical trauma to the upper nerves of the arm which cause this injury is the severing of the upper trunk at C5-C6. These nerves are part of a grouping of nerves called the brachial plexus. A similar type of injury which can result from damage to the brachial plexus is called Klumpke’s Palsy.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
The most common cause of injury to the brachial plexi nerve grouping is shoulder dystocia, which usually results from a traumatic and difficult birth. In a typical case, during delivery, after the head of the baby has passed through the birth canal, the shoulder of the baby becomes trapped and cannot be delivered past the pubic bone.
Shoulder dystocia is also referred to when abnormal amounts of manipulation of the baby are needed to achieve delivery. In a typical case of shoulder dystocia, the chin becomes pressed against the perineum when the shoulder is trapped.
Shoulder dystocia can lead to the death of the baby if it is not rectified immediately, as the umbilical cord becomes trapped within the confines of the birth canal. A doctor can usually identify shoulder dystocia by noticing the baby “turtling.” The “turtle” indication occurs when the crown of the baby’s head appears and then retracts. Another symptom of shoulder dystocia identifiable to doctors is erythema of the baby’s face, which means that baby’s face is red and puffy.
Shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 1 percent of births, and doctors and nurses are aware of the risk factors which can lead to increased chance of dystocia, such as maternal obesity and diabetes.
An additional cause of Erb’s Palsy, absent shoulder dystocia, is excessive pulling on the arms and shoulders during delivery when the baby is presented head first (also known as vertex presentation). If the baby is in a breached presentation, where the feet are delivered first, excessive pressure on the shoulders can also result if the arms are raised.
Erb’s Palsy can also be caused by clavicle fractures in newborns or fetuses due to trauma unrelated to childbirth.
Effects of Erb’s Palsy
The effects of Erb’s Palsy are as diverse as the ways in which it is caused. The determining factor will be the damage to the nerves, which can be anything from a bruise, to a severing of the nerve. Typically, however, Erb’s Palsy will result in some form a paralysis – the question being whether that paralysis is partial or complete.
Common signs of Erb’s Palsy include:
- Loss of sensation in the affected arm
- Paralysis / Atrophy of Deltoid
- Paralysis / Atrophy of Biceps
- Paralysis / Atrophy of Brachialis Muscles
Typically, the affected arm will hang limply and will be rotated medially while the forearm will present itself extended. The patient will be unable to raise the arm from the side.
In babies, this injury typically results in stunted growth of the affected arm. The stunted nature of the affected arm will result in everything about that arm being smaller from the shoulder to the fingertips. The victim will also have reduced development of the muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems in the affected arm. The lack of development also tends to render the arm weak and less efficient, and leaves the patient in some cases unable to ever gain proper use of that arm.
As a direct result of the lack of proper development of the blood vessels of the circulatory system, an affected arm will need to be monitored during cold climates as the body loses the ability to regulate temperature in that arm leaving it vulnerable to tissue damage. In addition to being unable to regulate temperature, the underdevelopment of blood vessels in that arm means that it will be slower to heal and prone to serious infections.
Treatment of Erb’s Palsy
There are possibilities for treatment. Though some babies will be able to recover somewhat on their own, many will require the treatment of specialists and further surgical intervention and repair. If there has been a fracture, surgery will often be necessary to repair that damage, while lesions may heal over time and the lost function will be restored. In order to achieve use of their muscles, many babies will need ongoing therapy. Some infants will regain full range of motion in their arm. Though if this has not occurred by one year of age, it is unlikely to occur.
Some treatment options for Erb’s Palsy include:
- Nerve transfers
- Sub Scapularis Releases
- Latissimus Dorsi Tendon Transfers
Our Belleville Erb’s Palsy Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Represent Victims of Serious Birth Injuries
Thankfully, injuries to the brachial plexus, such as the kind which results in Erb’s Palsy, are rare. Unfortunately, they do occur, and in most cases they are preventable. Health care providers should be able to recognize both the warning signs for possible complications which could lead to brachial plexus injuries, and are capable of effectively managing delivery to ensure they don’t occur. If they don’t maintain the proper standard of care, the consequences can be severe and last a lifetime for the affected child.
At The Cates Law Firm, LLC, we strive to ensure that every victim, and, if appropriate, their loved ones, receive compensation for the past and future medical bills associated with an injury, and for pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, lost wages and all other costs and damages associated with a serious injury resulting from medical malpractice.
If your child, or a friend or loved one’s child has been diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, Klumpke’s Palsy, or another brachial plexus injury, we are here to help with your claim. Please give us a call today at 618-277-3644 for your no cost, no obligation consultation, or contact us online and let us know how we can help you.