Erb’s Palsy: Causes, Treatments, and Potential for Legal Action


A Mother Holding Her Infant's Hand

Erb’s palsy, or brachial plexus birth palsy, is a birth injury that can happen during a difficult delivery. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near the neck that branch out to all of the nerves in the arm. When a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck against the mother’s pelvis and the doctor exerts force to get the baby out, the neck can be stretched too far, which will also stretch and damage the nerves. The result can be a palsy, or weakening, of the arm, hands, and fingers on that side. In the worst case, the nerves are permanently damaged and the child will have a damaged arm for the rest of her life.


Why Does This Happen?

When delivering a big baby, or when forced to deliver a baby quickly because either the baby or the mother is at risk, doctors often have a choice to make: perform a Caesarean section, or use forceps or a vacuum. If a doctor chooses to deliver by forceps or vacuum extraction, the risk of injury to the baby is greatly increased. Erb’s palsy is one possible injury. Sometimes, the damage to the nerves in the neck is temporary and the baby will eventually recover full use of her arm. However, other times the damage is permanent and the child will have to live with a handicap.

Treatment for Erb’s Palsy

Even in cases of temporary damage, a baby with Erb’s palsy will need medical treatment and follow-up care. Possible treatment includes the following:

  • Physical therapy. With this condition, the damage is to the nerves, not the muscles of the arm. Daily physical therapy will be needed to keep the arm muscles strong as the nerves recover. Parents will do much of this at home, but there will also be frequent visits to a doctor or therapist.
  • Surgery. If the baby does not show signs of improvement in the first three to six months, this may indicate that the nerve was ruptured. The doctor may recommend surgery to graft a healthy nerve taken from the baby or from another donor to the ruptured nerve in an attempt to restore function. This option may restore some arm function, but does not usually completely reverse the condition.

These Treatments Can Be Costly

Whether your baby is able to recover completely after extensive therapy or suffers a lifelong disability, even after surgery, you will be facing large hospital bills. If the condition was caused by a doctor’s mistake, you are entitled to compensation to cover those bills and the continuing care for your child. The attorneys at Holton Law are experienced in cases of Erb’s palsy and will be there for you every step of the way. Call us today at 888-443-4387.


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